Business leaders come in all shapes and sizes but one thing they all have in common is they are at least partly responsible for the success or failure of the organisation. The pandemic and lockdown have created unique challenges and opportunities at the same time, with more people working from home than ever before, as well as starting new projects and new businesses.
New business owners can learn from those who have been there and done it, but an interesting situation arises when female leaders and professionals want to improve their skills and knowledge: most business books are still authored by men. That is not necessarily a problem but it is a missed opportunity. Of course women can learn a lot from male authors, but many women may prefer to read business books authored by other women, or at least get a more balanced view of things. So we need more women to write and publish business books, to provide that balance.
There’s plenty of discussion available today around the issue of diversity, and it is not my intention to divert the conversation. However, it is worth noting that the diversity in society and even in business is not reflected accurately in the books on business subjects. I keep seeing lists of ‘top business books’ with only 5% or 10% authored by women. In one notable case, a list of over 30 recommended business books included not one book written by a woman!
What Stops Women Writing Business Books
Confidence needs to be mentioned right up front. It is a proven fact that on average, women do not feel or exhibit the same level of confidence as men. Speaker and author of Dancing Round the Handbags Lynne Copp has shared that typically men over-estimate what they can do and what they know, and women under-estimate those things. This leads to a self-fulfilling prophecy of women not stepping forward to write books, in part because they are not sure they know enough.
At The Book Midwife®, one of my companies, we are seeing more women coming forward than previously, which is encouraging. But we still hear them say ‘I’m not sure I know enough’ or ‘I’m not sure I have enough to say’ significantly more than their male counterparts. At Panoma Press, one of my other companies, there is an ongoing initiative to ensure that 80% of the books published are authored by people from under-represented groups. The number and percentage of female authors is up, but it is still a challenge to find enough women of colour willing to share their expertise.
Perhaps they don’t see enough role models who look like them. I can understand someone’s concern about belonging, when they look at a group and don’t see people they can identify with. I believe there is subconscious thought about there not being room for them, or that forum not being the right place for them. What female entrepreneurs and professionals need are stories, insights and wisdom shared by other women who have been there and done it.
Please don’t misunderstand me: I’m not talking about tokenism, churning out more books by women just to make up the numbers. Smart people know how to discern between valuable books and substandard products created for the sake of it. Even the quota or target I mentioned earlier is an aim, not a must at any cost. One thing we must never sacrifice is quality. Every book should be the best it can be, and should add real value to the reader’s life, and in this case, business life.
There are women out there who have achieved great things in business; they just need to get published. If we were to see more female authors stepping up, a percentage of them would definitely get into print. I’m not a big fan of proposals, but if you are going to do one, sell yourself confidently to give yourself the best chance.
Here are three easy things for you to do:
1 Look out for great business books written by women. Read them, review them and spread the word about the books and the authors.
2 If you know a female entrepreneur or business leader, ask her to write and publish a book about her experience and expertise, to inspire other women. There’s help available if they need more clarity to get started. Just get in touch and I’ll be happy to discuss.
3 Call out lack of diversity every time you see it: in lists, reviews, awards, conferences, articles and social media posts. But don’t just criticise; recognise and mention inspiring female leaders and authors to balance things out.
Everyone should be given a fair chance. The opportunity is there; we just want to see more women reach out and grab it.
Mindy Gibbins-Klein MBA FRSA FPSA is a global thought leadership expert and founder of Panoma Press, REAL Thought Leaders and The Book Midwife®. Her latest book The Thoughtful Leader is available from Amazon and all good bookstores.
Find out more at www.mindygk.com