12 Books Every Female Founder/Entrepreneur/CEO Should Read

book club book list recommended reads Apr 12, 2021


Dearest Reader,

We believe books are incredible agents of change because they show us what is possible, not just to accept what is.

We only have one life, and yet we can live a thousand through the experiences of others who have walked the same path we’re traveling, perhaps in different shoes. In books, we find the mentors, friends, and business partners that are necessary to our success as entrepreneurs.

Sometimes you meet these people in real life too. One such entrepreneur I’ve been inspired by recently is my friend, Suzanne Vetillart. Suzanne is the CEO of Boma Jewelry, a Seattle-based, family-owned company that sells ethically made jewelry and advocates for the triple bottom line: people, planet, and profits. 

 Suzanne and I often get asked what we’re reading, so we’ve curated a special list of recommendations from books that have helped us on our own journeys, ones that have piqued our curiosities, as well as upcoming new releases that we don’t want you to miss out on. We’re proud to present this collaboration through our Cubicle to CEO X Boma Book Club List.

These are 12 books we believe every female founder, entrepreneur and leader should read.

We chose twelve so that we could make a commitment to read one book each month together, as a community.

We hope you’ll join us in a year of growth through the words and wisdom of strong, smart, successful women.

Why all female authors?

 As Asian American women in business, we both bring a strong sense of collaboration, inclusiveness and empathy to how we run our companies. We believe there is power in celebrating these feminine energy traits.

The problem?

The struggles and successes of entrepreneurship are still predominantly told from a male point of view in today’s media, so we both wanted to elevate books written BY AND FOR women in business to highlight diverse perspectives on what female leadership looks like.

We chose a sampling of well known thought leaders like Melinda Gates, in addition to first-time authors like Natalie Franke who may not be household names yet, but have equally as much value to share in the pages of their writing.

To give you a sneak peek of what to expect, here’s a preview of one of Suzanne’s book list picks:

“One of my favorite books on this list is Different by Youngme Moon. I read this book when it was first published ten years ago and re-read it recently. I think all entrepreneurs want to escape the competitive herd, yet as our businesses grow and scale it is very easy for any company to blend into the sameness of our competitors. In her intro she explains that she wrote this book because she believes that marketing has become the soundtrack of our generation. If this speaks to you, this book will bring some good insights.”

And a glimpse into a few of mine:

“Liz Bohannon, Emma Isaacs, and Jess Ekstrom’s books detail the lives of three very different women with three very different companies who share a common quality required of success: they all took action before they felt ready or had every step planned out. There is a realness and boldness in each of their books that is contagious. I always say, “if you aren’t embarrassed by your first attempt, you waited too long to start.” Their stories of ingenuity, overcoming obstacles, and normalizing failure will encourage you to show up, no matter what.”

We hope you love these books and the women who wrote them as much as we do.

Cheering you on,

Ellen Yin, Cubicle to CEO & Suzanne Vetillart, Boma Jewelry



1. Different: Escaping the Competitive Herd, Youngme Moon

In today’s world of overabundant consumer choices and superfluous apps, upgrades, add-ons, and features, brands have become nearly identical, as their efforts to outdo one another have pushed them into a dizzying herd of indistinct options.

Youngme Moon identifies the outliers, the mavericks, the iconoclasts—the players who have thoughtfully rejected orthodoxy in favor of an approach that is more adventurous. Some are even “hostile,” almost daring you to buy what they are selling. 

Using her original research on companies such as IKEA and Google, Moon will inspire you to be counterintuitive and meaningfully different—to rethink your business strategy, to stop conforming and start deviating, to stop emulating and start innovating. Because to stand out you must become the exception, not the rule.



2. The Moment of Lift, Melinda Gates

In her first book, The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World, Melinda Gates makes a bold claim: when we lift up women, we lift up humanity.

After years of travel, humanitarian work and extensive research, Melinda introduces us to the women she's met along the way. Their stories are brutally honest, gut-wrenching, inspiring and triumphant. They show us how, time and time again, empowered women rise up and bring their families and communities with them.

Melinda also shares her own personal journey to achieving equality in her marriage, finding her voice and becoming an advocate for women and girls. She explains how the women she has met have called her to action. And at this critical moment, she calls us to action too—urging us to drive progress in our homes, workplaces and communities.

The Moment of Lift will fill your heart with hope and the determination to empower yourself and others. It will also ignite your sense of urgency, leaving you convinced that equality can’t wait.



3. Radical Candor, Kim Scott

From Kim Scott, author of the revolutionary New York Times bestseller Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity, comes Just Work: Get Sh*t Done Fast & Fair ― how we can recognize, attack, and eliminate workplace injustice ― and transform our careers and organizations in the process.

We―all of us―consistently exclude, underestimate, and underutilize huge numbers of people in the workforce even as we include, overestimate, and promote others, often beyond their level of competence. Not only is this immoral and unjust, but it’s also bad for business. Just Work is the solution. 

Just Work is Kim Scott’s new book, revealing a practical framework for both respecting everyone’s individuality and collaborating effectively. This is the essential guide leaders and their employees need to create more just workplaces and establish new norms of collaboration and respect. 



4. Professional Trouble Maker, Luvvie Ajayi Jones

Luvvie Ajayi Jones is known for her trademark wit, warmth, and perpetual truth-telling. But even she's been challenged by the enemy of progress known as fear. She was once afraid to call herself a writer, and nearly skipped out on doing a TED talk that changed her life because of imposter syndrome. As she shares in Professional Troublemaker, she's not alone.

 With humor and honesty, and guided by the influence of her professional troublemaking Nigerian grandmother, Funmilayo Faloyin, Luvvie walks us through what we must get right within ourselves before we can do the things that scare us; how to use our voice for a greater good; and how to put movement to the voice we've been silencing--because truth-telling is a muscle.

 The point is not to be fearless, but to know we are afraid and charge forward regardless. It is to recognize that the things we must do are more significant than our fears. This book is about how to live boldly in spite of all the reasons we have to cower. 



5. The Creator's Code: The Six Essential Skills of Extraordinary Entrepreneurs, Amy Wilkinson

Each of us has the capacity to spot opportunities, invent products, and build businesses—even $100 million businesses.

How do some people turn ideas into enterprises that endure? Why do some people succeed when so many others fail? The Creator’s Code unlocks the six essential skills that underlie entrepreneurial success. This global best selling book is based on 200 interviews with today’s leading entrepreneurs including the founders of Airbnb, Tesla Motors, SpaceX, LinkedIn, Dropbox, Chipotle, Under Armour, PayPal, eBay, and Jetblue.

Over the course of five years, Amy Wilkinson conducted over 200 interviews and analyzed academic research across many different fields. From the creators of companies as diverse as Yelp, Chobani, and Spanx, she found that creators are not born with an innate ability to conceive and build $100 million enterprises. They work at it. They all share fundamental skills that can be learned, practiced, and passed on.

Entrepreneurial success, Wilkinson demonstrates, is accessible to everyone.



6. We Should All Be Millionaires: A Woman’s Guide to Earning More, Building Wealth, and Gaining Economic Power, Rachel Rodgers

(releasing May 2021)

While ninety percent of the world’s millionaires are men, only ten percent are women, making it difficult for women to wield the economic power that will create lasting equality. Rachel Rodgers, founder of Hello Seven, a company that coaches women in scaling their businesses and their lives to seven figures, says it’s time for a change.

Women deserve the economic power and equality that comes with wealth, and we all have it in us to be millionaires. We Should All Be Millionaires details a realistic, achievable, step-by-step path to become a millionaire within the next three years.

Whatever is currently stopping you from having seven figures in the bank—whether it is doubt, feeling overwhelmed, imposter syndrome, trying too many things, or simply not knowing where to begin—this book shows you how to clear every obstacle in your way. We Should All Be Millionaires will forever change the way you think about money and your ability to earn it.

In this book, Rachel Rodgers—mother of four, attorney, business owner, and self-made Black millionaire— shares the lessons she’s learned both in her own journey to wealth and in coaching hundreds of women through their own journeys to seven figures.





7. Winging It, Emma Isaacs

Are you ready to wing it? CEO and entrepreneur Emma Isaacs forgot to draw up her life plan, and she doesn't have a list of five-year goals. She doesn't believe in work/life balance – after all she has five children and heads up Business Chicks, Australia's largest community for women. Like Sheryl Sandberg, who told us to 'lean in' to find success, Emma wants to show us that you can't plan every detail and wait for the confidence to kick in before you begin; instead, take action now, do what feels right and figure the rest out as you go along. In other words, you've got to learn how to 'wing it' rather than wait.

Drawing on her own life and the stories of the many men and women she has met and interviewed – from Sir Richard Branson to Bill Gates to Girlboss Sophia Amoruso – Emma tells us how to:

  • Turn a dream into a job
  • Turn a job into a business
  • Network like a champion
  • Protect your time for the things that matter
  • Get fired up, not ground down, by the kids/career juggle
  • Understand that sometimes failure is part of the brief

Emma shows us that often the only thing holding us back is ourselves, that you can follow your dreams and that there's no reason not to start doing so right now.

Want more Emma? Catch up on her conversation with us on Ep. 64 of the Cubicle to CEO Podcast: How A College Drop-Out Built a Multi-Million Dollar Global Brand


8. Beginner's Pluck, Liz Bohannon

Hate to break it to you, but you’re never going to “find your passion.” Why? Because your passion and purpose are something you create–actively–every day. How? So glad you asked.

In her signature tell-it-like-it-is fashion, entrepreneur Liz Forkin Bohannon shows you how to cultivate the mindsets that will help you live that you were made on purpose and for a purpose. Sharing the hilarious and heartbreaking stories of her own screwups and successes, Liz shows you how to:

  • Embrace your inner Beginner
  • Dream Small
  • Choose curiosity over criticism
  • and so much more.

It’s within your power to build a life of purpose, passion and impact. All you need is a little bit of pluck…



9. Chasing The Bright Side, Jess Ekstrom

Stop wishing for a better world, start creating one. Called a “spectacular debut” by Publisher’s Weekly Jess’ journey will inspire you to embrace the power of optimism in your own life, and help you reimagine your purpose so you create good in the world while fulfilling your own dreams—right where you are.

 Want more Jess? Catch up on her conversation with us on Ep. 88 of the Cubicle to CEO Podcast: Scrappy Ways To Build A Business When You're Starting From Scratch


10. Dear Female Founder, Lu Li

Looking for inspiration and motivation to overcome another setback? Dear Female Founder is just what you need to read. 

A collection of 66 letters, written by female founders around the world, the book aims to share personal insights and honest advice to anyone building a business.



11. Built To Belong, Natalie Franke

(releasing August 2021)

We must value connection as though our life depends on it… because it does.

Many of us feel more alone than ever despite living in the most connected society in human history. We need to belong in the same way that we need oxygen–our physical bodies require it. We perform better and have greater successes as individuals when we are connected to the collective.

 Join author Natalie Franke as she shares her story of longing for connection in the chaos and lessons learned on her journey to true belonging. Together we’ll uncover how to:

  • Kick scroll-induced jealousy to the curb and transform the way that social media makes you feel about yourself and others
  • Overcome loneliness by finding your people and cultivating true community in your personal and professional world
  • Strike the balance between camaraderie and competition so that you can live a deeply fulfilled and joyful life

Human beings are not highlight reels—we’re done fanning the flames of comparison, drowning in our insecurities, and being pitted against one another. We’re saying no to the endless rat race of getting ahead and goodbye to the narratives that leave us feeling left out and alone. We are destined for something better. We’re made for so much more. Because knit into the fabric of our DNA, we were Built to Belong.

 Want more Natalie? Catch up on her conversation with us on Ep. 57 of the Cubicle to CEO Podcast: Secrets to Starting A Fast-Growing Community


12. Thinking Like A Boss: Uncover and Overcome the Lies Holding You Back from Success, Kate Crocco

With over 11 million female-owned businesses in the US today, more women than ever are taking the reins to create their own success. Maybe you feel the pull to start a business but deep down you're afraid that you don't have what it takes. Maybe you have a great idea but wonder if you're actually qualified to make it happen. Or maybe you want to expand your business, but you're worried about how it will affect your family. If that's you, it's time to start thinking like a boss. In this practical and encouraging book, Kate Crocco exposes the 12 limiting beliefs that are holding you back from your true potential, such as:

  • I should have it all together and I don't
  • I'm not ready or qualified to start
  • I don't have enough time
  • It's already been done before 
  • ...and more