I am dedicated to influencing women to reach their full capacity, in business and life. Whether it’s inspiration or guidance, this list of books is all fuel for that passion. They are good fodder for asking big questions and have become tools for my journey of self-discovery, and for building a business that creates social change, corporate evolution, betterment of society and livelihoods of women.
By CAROLYN LAWRENCE
As told to Melissa Brazier
Arianna Huffington, Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder, 2014.
HUFFINGTON, MOTHER, WIFE AND CO-FOUNDER OF HUFFINGTON POST MEDIA GROUP, HAD A MOMENT OF CLARITY WHEN SHE LITERALLY FELL DOWN FROM EXHAUSTION. HER STORY EXAMINES WHAT IT MEANS TO BE A “SUCCESS”—BEYOND MONEY AND POWER.
When more than one of my trusted consultants and advisors told me that I had to read this book, I listened. I took it with me on a trip to Mexico for a much-needed vacation; I hadn’t turned off e-mail in quite a long time, and it was showing. I was burnt out. As I’m unwinding and relaxing, the whole book is hitting me over the head with the messages I needed to hear: you have to take care of yourself; you have to be in the right mindset to lead; you have to meditate, wonder, and have fun to be successful or it is not a life worth living. I’m currently trying to grow my business, with determination, focus and infinite passion and drive and when I returned to work I brought back with me even better practices and intentions to be successful in all areas of my life. I believe one needs to know what their recipe for success is, and mine needed a shakeup—more running, yoga, tango and tequila! (Ok, that wasn’t her advice, but I think it’s still good advice.) I got the message Arianna, and am already leading in a more authentic and whole-hearted way.
Louann Brizendine, The Female Brain, 2007.
EXPLORING A BURGEONING AREA OF RESEARCH WHERE, SUPRISINGLY, VERY LITTLE WORK HAS BEEN DONE, BRIZENDINE TAKES AN INDEPTH SCIENTIFIC LOOK AT THE NEUROLOGY, PSYCHOLOGY, AND NEUROBIOLOGY OF WHAT MAKES WOMEN THE WAY WE ARE.
In 2010, Jill Nykoliation, President of the communication agency Juniper Park, the company that designed our recent re-brand, told me that a big part of her own learning in marketing to women started with understanding the brain science behind it. Brizendine explains the unique effects of our hormones and wiring vs those of men, concluding that we need a new social contract between men and women. For the first time in human history, an increasing number of women want to be hunters as opposed to gatherers, but how we hunt is different than men. Women lead collaboratively, problem solve differently, and are great operators that can see multiple perspectives simultaneously. She helps you understand why you bring a certain set of skills to your home, work environment and community. I knew at a young age that the old social contract wasn’t going to work for me, and although it’s a work-in-progress, this book was formative in my confidence as a female leader, or “hunter.” This book opened my eyes to looking for people who supported that vision, or who I could convince to believe in the strength of understanding and appreciating the neurological difference between our genders.
Margaret Atwood, Cat’s Eye, 1988.
THE PROTAGONIST OF THIS NOVEL ELAINE RISLEY, RETURNS TO HER HOME TOWN OF TORONTO FOR A RESTROSPECTIVE OF HER ART. ATWOOD RECOUNTS ELAINE’S CHILDHOOD MEMORIES AS THE CHARACTER MINES HER PAST FOR INSIGHT ABOUT HER PRESENT IDENTITY AND FUTURE.
We were assigned this book in grade 10 English. Even though I read a lot, it was the first piece of literature where I felt a powerful connection with a character and it was simultaneously the dawn of my reading about female equality. A quote that always gets me is: “They pass hard, legitimate judgments, unlike the purblind guesses of men, fogged with romanticism and ignorance and bias and wish. Women know too much, they can neither be deceived nor trusted. I can understand why men are afraid of them, as they are frequently accused of being.” Growing up in an environment that bred conformity, I was trying to make sense of toxic cliques, and determined to find my own voice within the confines of strict rules and structure. That was Elaine’s journey, too, and it simply struck a chord with me. This book is representative of what shaped me, and by extension, my legacy. What resonated with me then, and led me to the journey I am on today, is Atwood’s ability to communicate so powerfully through her chosen art. Her words were a big part of my development.
Lance Armstrong, It’s Not About The Bike: My Journey Back To Life, 2001.
A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER, THIS AUTOBIOGRAPHY IS THE STORY OF A CYCLIST, HUSBAND, PHILANTHROPIST, AND FATHER, AND HIS JOURNEY FROM RAPIDLY SPREADING CANCER TO FULL RECOVERY.
When I came across this book in my mid-twenties, I was three months into training for my first Ironman triathlon while in an Event Coordinator role at TD Waterhouse. At that time in my life, I hadn’t really faced any hardship, so I benefited from reading about how deep Lance had to dig and what that felt like. I know that since then many of Armstrong’s accomplishments have been discredited, but the central themes of perseverance and commitment hold up even if the man has fallen from grace. A quote that has stayed with me is: “I’ve read that I flew up the hills and mountains of France. But you don’t fly up a hill. You struggle slowly and painfully up a hill, and maybe if you work very hard you get to the top ahead of everybody else.” That determination and fight has carried over into my business as well; I believe we are all capable of a lot of greatness if we dig deep and take ownership. It isn’t about the equipment, the conditions, or the obstacles; the most important thing we have is ourselves, and that’s incredibly powerful.
Lauren Weisberger, The Devil Wears Prada: A Novel, 2004.
THIS IS THE STORY OF ANDREA SACHS, A SMALL-TOWN GIRL, FRESH OUT OF SCHOOL, JOURNALISM DEGREE IN HAND, WHO LANDS THE COVETED JOB OF ASSISTANT TO MIRANDA
PRIESTLY, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF OF FASHION MAGAZINE RUNWAY AND NOTORIOUS ICE QUEEN.
When I came across this book in 2007, I was newly appointed as President of Women of Influence and having had a lifelong attraction to magazines and the publishing industry—as well as famed influencer Anna Wintour—I couldn’t resist. What I ended up enjoying was the lighthearted exploration of Wintour’s leadership style (who the main character is based on) that didn’t win her any compliments or lasting relationships, but did result in undeniable success. One woman’s way may not be another’s, but I find all examples of achieving success interesting and worth understanding to see if that might work, and why. What are the benefits and risks to it? And, of course, interesting in that I knew one day we would incorporate media into the fold at Women of Influence Inc., and true to form we published our first magazine issue in 2010.
Robert K. Massie, Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman, 2012.
IN THIS NARRATIVE BIOGRAPHY, THE PULITZERPRIZE WINNING AUTHOR UNRAVELS THE TALE OF CATHERINE’S JOURNEY FROM MINOR NOBLE FAMILY TO EMPRESS OF RUSSIA FOR 34 YEARS.
This book landed on my desk unexpectedly, so I had minimal expectations, but cracked it nonetheless as a good summer read and was hooked immediately. The story of the longest ruling female leader in Russia was fascinating to me because of how she ruled; with enlightenment and determination and inspired by the advice of great philosophers. At the time I picked this up, I was in the process of rebuilding my sense of self after losing my father, and facing a resulting domino effect of the breakdown of other relationships. That tough transition forced me to ask big questions without my father’s leadership (he was a man who, despite his best qualities, still believed that women should be ladies). What is that voice as a ruler, or leader? Can we be true to ourselves as women but also great leaders? Catherine was a great example of yes, we can. This book is for people looking for examples of how to lead and leave a lasting legacy, and do it their own way.