This Women’s Day (while you’re being rightly celebrated and adored, of course), why not also get your go-getter on with these three recent looks into feminine power and experience? Collectively they look at gaining independence and worth by taking it into your own hands, becoming more comfortable with imperfections and hurdles, gender biases, workplaces, inequality: all the factors and forces that affect and influence modern life and its bewildering array of identities and experiences – things we could all lend a little more cognisance. For exploration and sense-making, for solidarity and celebration, have a look at these:
Women’s Work: A Reckoning with Work and Home by Megan K. Stack
We begin with an intriguing, unflinching memoir about raising children abroad with the help of other mothers. In order to have her first child, foreign correspondent Megan Stack reoriented her life in Beijing, opting to work from home and setting aside her prestigious, high-intensity job. She soon realised that availing herself of the time to write was difficult while all her energies went into caring for a new baby and keeping on top of household concerns. Stack therefore turned to a solution available to many affluent families and professionals… outside help. In China, cheap labour is easily acquired and Stack quickly hired a Chinese housekeeper who was herself a mother – a mother risking a great deal in order to provide for her own daughter. Thus Stack was confronted with the truths of a difficult ethical compromise; a situation that led her into an empathetic exploration and gave rise to this edifying rumination on marriage, motherhood, feminism and privilege.
Stack’s growing family eventually took her to Delhi where she soon assembled a team of hardworking Chinese and Indian women who tended the daily needs of her home. But, grateful for the help, Stack quickly became aware of the very real, and often harsh, struggles that these other women endured, discovering a brutal undercurrent of domestic abuse, alcoholism and unplanned pregnancy. Hiring poor local women allowed Stack to achieve the life she was after, but it came with uncomfortable revelations.
Journeying into the family and home lives of her employees, Stack launched an investigative effort to examine the tough realities of such arrangements, exploring the sacrifices that these women had made in order to keep their own families going. What results is an electric and sharply wrought memoir that examines the commonalities of motherhood while being acutely aware of the divergences caused by power, wealth and gender. This is a parenthood memoir, beautifully written with great insight, which veers from the standard tropes of the genre in order to provide a fuller and more detailed look at women, children and families that intersect due to, and in spite of, worldly and material differences.
Lean Out: The Truth About Women, Power and the Workplace by Marissa Orr
Sticking with work, wealth and motherhood, we move onto a hard-hitting examination of one of this age’s most pressing inequalities: women in the workplace. The gender-pay gap lingers persistently in spite of decades of equality legislation, and women CEOs still constitute a huge minority in the corporate world. Just how did it all get so misshapen? Marissa Orr, single mum of three, has spent fifteen years pursuing a career among the tech giants, a world ruled over by narcissistic fiefs, cut-throat competitors and strident voices. And this is a book dedicated to the creation of workplaces with greater diversity, more equality and healthier habits – the kinds of professional environment that could benefit all of us.
Lean Out offers a fresh and authentic look at systemic biases and the upper corporate echelons, combining research with Orr’s personal experiences to deliver urgent new arguments for helping women to the top via listening, better incentives and a proper celebration of successful traits. At its more investigative, Lean Out unveils the impact on female well-being caused by the pursuit of gender-equality, the need to re-evaluate the way that companies choose their leaders and define success, and the focus on changing behaviour rather than changing the system that keeps these issues stagnant. At its most intimate, it reveals a working woman with a great sense of humour, a revolutionary spirit and the collective voice of a generation seeking to change things up, to alter and improve the trajectories of career-women the world over. It’s an insightful, impactful book that offers challenges and extends support.
Like She Owns the Place: Unlock the Secret of Lasting Confidence by Cara Alwill Leyba
And now onto a motivational book that actively encourages self-love and provides generous, actionable advice on embracing your own happiness and crushing the things that hold you back.
Life coach, motivational speaker and prolific New York author, Cara Alwill Leyba, here challenges you to prioritise your own happiness, to ditch what prevents you from feeling good and to get to know mistakes and vulnerabilities with more honest intimacy. Imagine what life would be like if we stopped seeking validation from things outside of ourselves, imagine changing what it means to “win”, imagine neutralising toxic people, accepting failures and gaining the sort of confidence that makes the biggest difference.
Like She Owns the Place is an immediately workable plan for achieving what you want to achieve, celebrating what you ought to be celebrating and building the groundwork for a new life that will just keep on giving. Like a conversation with the best kind of friend you could have, this a stylish and accessible exercise in tough love and actualisation – an inspiring handbook for contemporary women. Chapter to chapter it delivers empowering mantras and real-world inspiration – affirmations and advice you can really grab hold of.
In any one of these books there are powerful insights to be found. From journalistic explorations of divergent/convergent female stories and the ways that experiences can be both mutual and foreign to the obstacles that dog the pursuit of career success and personal fulfilment, from kick-ass advice and affirmation to new ways of viewing the world around you, these three authors excel at celebrating and encouraging every facet of womanhood.