A Book of One's Own - a manifesto for women to share their expertise and make a difference

I started my working life in publishing, had my first book – a business book – published in 2002, and co-founded Rethink Press, a hybrid publishing company for entrepreneur authors, in 2011. I’ve been writing and/or publishing all my life, and never given much thought to the gender balance of authors.

In 2017 I founded the Business Book Awards, to celebrate the best of business writing and publishing. I picked a Judging Panel of ten female and ten male authors, publishers and business experts. Head Judge Alison Jones and I (both women, obviously) formulated the entry categories and rigorous judging criteria, all of which we thought were balanced and fair. Our judges did a sterling job assessing the 150 books entered in our inaugural Awards. They followed the process with insight and integrity.

Our category winners, the winner of an additional Judges’ Choice Award, and the winner of the overall Business Book of the Year Award were all experts in their field and great writers; their books were top quality. Every single one of our eleven Award winners, including two co-authored books, was a white man.

After the Awards, I tracked back: of the 150 entries, one third were from women authors; slightly less than a third of female-authored books had made it to the category short lists and none to the list of winners.

At Rethink Press, authors approach us to publish their business and self-development books; we don’t commission or seek out authors, so there is no mediation of types of book or author we publish. I’d assumed we published roughly equal amounts of men and women authors – but when I analysed our list, it was about one third female to two-thirds male.

 Why were so many fewer women than men writing books about their knowledge, experience and expertise in their market, business or sector, I wondered. Maybe, I guessed, for the same reasons that fewer women than men start their own businesses: they have less confidence than men in their own abilities, are more risk averse, and have to factor in caring responsibilities; they are also taken less seriously by external organisations and individuals, and lack role models, mentors and networks.

If that was the case, then ironically, writing and publishing their own book could be of particular benefit to women entrepreneurs: it confers an external authority and consolidates an internal confidence; it creates valuable intellectual property for their business; and acts as a selling point for the company, the brand and the author themselves. Entrepreneurs who are the authors of good books increase their client base, raise their fees, get industry speaking gigs and gain more attention from the media. Women in business can profit from all of these outcomes, perhaps even more than men.

In 1929, Virginia Woolf, who had started her own publishing company, the Hogarth Press, published two lectures she gave to Oxford women’s colleges under the title A Room of One’s Own. In this short book she explored the topic of Women and Fiction, analysed the historical lack of novels by (and about) women, and famously advocated that ‘a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.’

Ninety years later, in a different time and context, there is still a case to be made for women to write their books and benefit from publishing their stories, their experience and expertise. In a world where respect for women is sadly lacking, and unconscious as well as conscious bias undermines us, the authority of being a published author can raise respect both for individual women and add to the sum of esteem for women in general.

If you are a women author of a business book (published or writing), please join the #ABOOO Circle and add your experience and views through this survey. Thank you!

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* 1. Your name, book title(s) and publisher(s). Please include your email address if you would like to record a short online interview with me on this subject.

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* 2. Please describe your business, brand or job

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* 3. Has being a woman made your work or business journey harder?

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* 4. Has publishing your book(s) been useful to your buiness or professional standing?

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* 5. When you first considered writing your book, did any of the following hold you back?

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* 6. What benefits has publishing your book(s) brought you and your business?

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* 7. Why do you think fewer women than men write and publish business books?

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* 8. How did you actually get your book written: how did you schedule writing time, work around other work and home commitments, keep up the momentum... ? 

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* 9. What are your Five Top Tips for women wanting to write their book?

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* 10. Please say anything else you'd like to about women writing business books, your own writing/publishing journey, the results your book has had for you and your business...

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