Lady Business: Why Isn't There More Feminist Business Writing?

One of the most exasperating things about coverage of women and business is that it’s often ultimately reduced to the question of whether or not women can “have it all,” a phrase that Kelsey wisely questioned last week, asking: Can anyone?

I think part of the reason the conversation of work-life-balance has become reductive is because there aren’t enough women from a variety of perspectives, classes, and races writing about business.

I started thinking about this a few months ago when I read this guest post at Feministing by Doreen Bloch, a young entrepreneur and author. The day she visited the Strand Bookstore in New York City, she noted that she could “put on one shelf all the books written by women, versus the dozens of shelves it would take to contain business books penned by men.”

That day, I began compiling data about the grave disparity of women in business book writing. If women make up 46.8% of the workplace in America (Source: Department of Labor) and 58% of college classrooms (Source: The New York Times), where are the female voices in our business thought-leadership?

You may not know it, but business literature is an extremely important category in the US book business. Showcasing its importance, business is one of two categories that The New York Times’ monthly bestseller lists specifically provide; the other category is Politics. Market share statistics for business books are hard to come by, but a recent article noted that while “consumer trade books get a majority of the attention, professional and scholarly books [including legal, science, and business segments], hold 75.9% of the $1.76 billion U.S. E-book market.” The apparent lack of women in the business book space is not a niche problem.

I can think of a half dozen women who have recently published books that might qualify as feminist business writing and including Jill Geisler’s Work Happy: What Great Bosses Know, Judy Smith’s Good Self, Bad Self. Over the years, my favorite feminist business book was written by Dr. Lois Frankel, Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office: 101 Unconscious Mistakes Women Make That Sabotage Their Careers. I’ve read or skimmed a lot of the writing Suze Orman has published, too. What are some good feminist business books you’ve read?

Previously: The Three Types of Businesswomen in Pop Culture, Paid Parental Leave in the U.S. Sucks

Joshunda Sanders, a Black woman with short black hair, smiles brightly at the camera
by Joshunda Sanders
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Joshunda Sanders is the author of I Can Write the World, How Racism and Sexism Killed Traditional Media: Why the Future of Journalism Depends on Women and People of Color, and The Beautiful Darkness: A Handbook for Orphans. She lives in the Bronx, New York, and sometimes tweets @JoshundaSanders.

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4 Comments Have Been Posted

I've recently been interested

I've recently been interested in reading more business literature and I've found a few writers who have kept my attention.

Clare O'Connor is a staff writer for Forbes who writes some very interesting and well-put articles about business and doesn't shy away from topics pertaining to women's experiences in the workplace. Here's one of her articles about <a href=" Blakely</a>. There are other female writers on staff, but O'Connor is my favorite.

I know that one of the Long Beach Business Journals senior staff writers, <a href=" Rider</a> writes some informative business articles.

<a href="">Laura Vanderkam</a> writes books about spending, time-management, and career planning, which fall under business-y topics for me. I enjoy her writing. Her first chapter in <i>168 Hours</i> profiles Theresa Daytner, who is a brilliant entrepreneur.

Slightly older (1920's),

Slightly older (1920's), overlooked, but still relevant management ideas: Mary Parker Follett. Book: Mary Parker Follett, Prophet of Management, by Pauline Graham.


When I wrote the book proposal for what would become "Work Happy: What Great Bosses Know," i underscored the dearth of women authors of business books. I had only to look at my own library of leadership and management literature to prove my point. I believe it was actually a selling point that appealed to publishers - and that's a good sign for all of us.

There are excellent thought leaders in the field of leadership and organizational development, well worth citing. I have great respect for Harvard's Teresa Amabile ("The Progress Principle") and Linda Hill ("Becoming a Manager") along with writers like Barbara Kellerman ("Bad Leadership"), Charlene Li ("Open Leadership") and Peggy Holman ("Engaging Emergence.") Charlene and Peggy were even kind enough to do advance reviews of my book.

Thank you for noting my efforts to transform workplaces by helping managers understand that the most important thing they do is help others succeed.

Jill Geisler
The Poynter Institute

Lady Business-Writing Teachers

<p>Good points. The 75.9 percent figure in particular is sobering. Oddly, though, business-writing <em>training</em> seems to be more highly populated by women than by men. (For example, the most highly rated Google search for "business writing" is Lynn Gaertner-Johnston's Is this perhaps because teaching writing has traditionally been considered a female field? (Could a "Grammar <em>Guy"</em> ever compete with "Grammar <em>Girl"</em>?)</p>

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