Whilst every day is International Women’s Day in our book, the 8th March is globally recognised as *the* day we come together to celebrate the social, economical, cultural and political achievements of women. It’s also a day to raise awareness of inequality and drive positive change to forge a gender-equal world, free of stereotypes and discrimination.
After recent reports that the pandemic has exacerbated existing gender inequalities, setting back progress by decades – especially for women from minority Black or Asian backgrounds – this year’s IWD and the #BreakTheBias theme feels more poignant than ever.
Whether deliberate or unconscious, gender bias is what holds women back from equal opportunities in every area of our lives. It’s what prevents women from climbing the ladder, being hired, promoted, believed, taken seriously or even listened to.
Unconscious bias and deep-rooted prejudices are so ingrained in our unequal societies that they’re not always easy to spot, thus increasingly difficult to combat.
Each of these eight galvanizing books help to shine a light on the implicit nature of bias and how it shapes the way we live, whilst providing powerful insights on how we can challenge those ingrained belief systems.
From the pay gap to the motherhood penalty, here’s a list of eight essential reads to add to your shelves this International Women’s Day so that we can break the bias and elevate women, all the way to the top.
1 Invisible Women – Caroline Criado Perez
With hoards of eye-opening data, stories and new research, award-winning campaigner Caroline Criado Perez will help you understand the unseen bias at work in our everyday lives in a world designed for and by, drum roll please…. men.
From government policy to technology and medical research, Invisible Women reveals data bias that systemically ignores, overlooks and excludes half of the global population with its one size-fits-all-men approach.
Reading it will be both an inspiring and infuriating journey. Put it in the freezer at regular intervals.
2 The Gendered Brain: The Neuroscience That Shatters the Myth of the Female Brain – Gina Rippon
Cognitive neuroscientist Gina Rippon has spent her career questioning ideas that the brains of men and women are fundamentally different. Using cutting edge neuroscience, she debunks the destructive stereotypes we face on a daily basis and raises some interesting questions about how these expectations condition our brains and shape our behaviours and abilities to our detriment.
In her book, she exposes flawed research – turns out even impartial science can be sexist – and examines the effects of living in a gendered world.
“Brains reflect the lives they have lived, not just the sex of their owners,” Rippon says. In other words, our brains absorb and reflect social attitudes that surround us, meaning it’s not biology but self-belief, social experiences, culture and politics that are the real brain changers.
3 Why Women Are Poorer Than Men & What We Can Do About It – Annabelle Williams
“Feminism has always been about economics, but economics hasn’t generally been about women” – Annabelle Williams
In her book Why Women Are Poorer Than Men former financial journalist for The Times, Annabelle Williams, reveals what got us to where we are and what we can do to incite positive change. Finance is a feminist issue and the gender pay gap is only part of the story. In order to guarantee true financial equality, women need to reclaim parts of the system they have been culturally excluded from, from pensions to pay structures, to investments.
This ground-breaking expose will empower your financial decisions and arm you with the knowledge needed to demand equality and challenge the ingrained beliefs that hold us back from moving forward. It’s time to rethink our approach to money.
4 Inferior: How Science Got Women Wrong – Angela Saini
Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus – we’re fundamentally different. For centuries, that’s what Science has told us but is that the whole story?
Here, science journalist Angela Saini looks into the gender wars of science, biology, psychology and anthropology to see how true that is, shedding light on controversial research and revealing an alternative view of science in which women are included, not excluded.
5 Women & Leadership – Julia Gillard & Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala
While women in leadership roles are on the rise, they still make up less than 10% of national leaders worldwide. If unequal access to power fills you with visceral rage, then this book will resonate.
Drawing on current research and conversation with some of the world’s most powerful women including Jacinda Ardern and Hillary Clinton, Women & Leadership is a timely call for a seismic change in the stale patterns of authority.
It explores the trajectories and lived experiences of female leaders, revealing the shocking reality of the continuing gender inequality in access to power and how unconscious bias shapes the way these women are perceived by the media.
6 The Motherhood Penalty – Joeli Brearley
Exploring the stark reality of motherhood and career discrimination, author Joeli Brearley – who was sacked whilst pregnant via voicemail (true story!) – highlights the price women pay throughout their career if they decide to have a child.
We’ve all heard of the gender pay gap but The Motherhood Penalty explores the procreation pay gap that exists between mothers and non-mothers. By the age of 42, mothers who are in full-time work are earning 11 per cent less than full-time women without children (TUC), compared with men who benefit from a fatherhood bonus, receiving a 6% pay increase on average according to the New York Times. This bias has a profound effect on women’s career prospects forever. With the second most expensive childcare system in the world, women in the UK are given no choice but to walk away from their careers or pay to go to work.
Whether you’re a mother who is sick of being sidelined, undermined, and underpaid. A stay-at-home mother who wants to work but can’t afford to. A future parent who is scared that having children will affect your career. An employer who wants to get the best out of its parent employees, or you simply want a stronger, fairer economy, The Motherhood Penalty is an expose of the work practices and antiquated systems that we’ve been conditioned to accept and a toolkit for how to challenge them. It’s full of practical advice to help you navigate systemic barriers when they slap you in the face.
7 The Authority Gap – Mary Ann Sieghart
Eye-opening and gloriously galvanising, The Authority Gap reveals the unconscious and deliberate bias at work in our everyday lives and reflected in the world around us. It demonstrates that despite the strides we’ve made toward equality, women are still not taken as seriously as men.
With illuminating contributions from Booker Prize winner Bernardine Evaristo, Mary Beard, Baroness Hale and Hillary Clinton, it is an impassioned, meticulously argued and optimistic call to arms for anyone who cares about creating a fairer society.
Send to all the men you know.
8 The Fictional Woman -Tara Moss
In her first non-fiction book, Tara Moss blends memoir and social analysis to examine the common fictions about women. She traces key moments in her life – from small-town tomboy in Canada, to international fashion model in the 90s, to bestselling author taking a polygraph test in 2002 to prove she writes her own work – and weaves her own experiences into a broader look at everyday sexism and issues surrounding the underrepresentation of women, modern motherhood, body image and the portrayal of women in politics, entertainment, advertising and the media.
Deeply personal and revealing, this is more than just Tara Moss’s own story. At once insightful, challenging and entertaining, she asks how we can change the old fictions, one woman at a time.
For anyone who thinks the fight for equality has already been won… give them this book.