5 must-read feminist leadership books

Madlen Popignatova 17
Article by: Sophie Poulsen
5 must-read feminist leadership books

2018 was filled with watershed moments in the women's movement – but there is still a ways to go for women to achieve full equality.


While women face the burden of gender inequality more broadly, it is on everyone's shoulders to advocate for equality. As author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie aptly put it:


"I would like today to ask that we should begin to dream about and plan for a different world. A fairer world. A world of happier men and happier women who are truer to themselves."


To realize this dream, it's important to truly understand and constantly educate yourself about the causes and symptoms of gender inequality.


To help you out, we asked the THNK Community to recommend feminist leadership books for all kinds of purposes, whether you're just getting introduced to the women's movement or you're looking to become a stronger ally to the movement.


Here’s a selection of easy reads, sci-fi, poetry and fairy tales, and great practical tips for women to get you started.

For those interested in understanding feminism and gender equality

books to ignite your inner feminist

In We Should All Be Feminists, author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie explores the definition of feminism in the twenty-first century. The book was inspired by her TEDx talk of the same name, where she describes the challenges we face today in defining “feminism” and describing what it means to be a man or a woman:

“The person more likely to lead is not the physically stronger person; it is the more creative person, the more intelligent person, the more innovative person, and there are no hormones for those attributes. A man is as likely as a woman to be intelligent, to be creative, to be innovative. We have evolved, but it seems to me that our ideas of gender have not evolved.”

Feminist activist Lina says, “This short piece makes for an easy introductory read. The important thing about this work is that it speaks to the universality of feminism and also gives it a Nigerian context (based on her origins), so it addresses the intersection of many issues that are relevant to feminism, namely equality, human rights, social justice, and so on.”

For a better understanding of the female experience

books to ignite your inner feminist

The Power by Naomi Alderman is a 2016 speculative fiction novel in which women have a deadly power, they can send electrical jolts from their fingers, which can hurt and even kill. This enables women to dominate society, depicting a reverse social order and perspective.

Yamit – lifelong feminist and former Program Manager at THNK – contends that, although it might be painful to read, men would learn a lot from this book. “In my opinion, switching the role of women and men might help men to better understand gender dynamics and the consequences when society is dominated by one gender.”

On its connection to the #MeToo movement, Alderman said in an interview, “I think I am probably part of that wave…Some of the news has sort of caught up to the book in this very strange way. Both have been part of a growing anger over the past decade, which to me, related to the increasing visibility of certain kinds of misogyny.”

For people just getting introduced to the women’s movement

books to ignite your inner feminist

Based on a series of lectures Woolf delivered in 1928, A Room of One’s Own is a partly-fictionalized essay that examines traditional hierarchies and what prevents women from having “a room of their own.”

On her last day of the THNK Executive Leadership Program, Agatha read a poem she wrote, called “to all my future boss ladies.”

She recommended Woolf’s seminal feminist fiction book because “it’s a fiction book that is actually an essay on women and fiction. In my view, it’s a great introduction to the women’s movement. It’s a short piece that uses literature to make a point on the lack of spaces – physical and figurative – to create and think.”

In A Room of One’s Own, Woolf forces the reader to question everything when she concludes that there is no such thing as truth:

“When a subject is highly controversial, one cannot hope to tell the truth. One can only show how one came to hold whatever opinion one does hold.”

For the women in your life

books to ignite your inner feminist

Women Who Run With the Wolves is a book by author, poet, and Jungian analyst Clarissa Pinkola Estés. An analysis of myths, fairy tales, and stories from different cultures, the book examines the Wild Woman archetype, whose qualities Estés claims have “today been dangerously tamed by a society that preaches the virtue of being ‘nice.'”

On the wolf-woman parallel, she writes, “Wolves and women are relational by nature, inquiring, possessed of great endurance and strength. They are deeply intuitive, intensely concerned with their young, their mate, and their pack…Yet both have been hounded, harassed, and falsely imputed to be devouring and devious, overly aggressive, of less value than those who are their detractors.”

THNK Faculty member Lieselotte Nooyen recommended this book having read it years ago and it’s stayed with her since. “I was 18 years old when my mum, who used to read so many stories to me, gave me this book. It turned out to be a gift for life and the continuation of how she brought me up: to stay wild in a world that prefers to tame you.”

For reading more than once

books to ignite your inner feminist

Sheryl Sandberg is the Chief Operating Officer of Facebook. In 2013, she wrote Lean In, in which she draws on her own experience to offer advice on what woman can do to help themselves, such as taking risks and challenging others.

Since its release, Lean In has become a global phenomenon, resulting in LeanIn.org, a “global community dedicated to helping women achieve their ambitions.”

A champion of fostering diversity and gender equity in sports, Mayi recommends using Lean In as a feminist leadership toolkit: “This book reveals many ways in which equality manifests at work and life, which are often overlooked or ignored. It is a great toolkit to read from time to time. Another great thing about this book is that it turns the issue of gender equity inward. In other words, we women have a huge responsibility in the matter, from claiming our own space to sitting at the table to sending the elevator up for other women.”

While people have questioned Sandberg’s own leadership capacity which has, in turn, called attention to the shortcomings of the leadership lessons she offers in Lean In, the tools remain relevant for many women who benefit from the practical tips that help them navigate their daily lives, open dialogue on the challenges they face, and inspire them to empower each other through the networks that have branched out as a result of this book. Her book has also been used by men to understand the practical challenges women face.

Equality is not just a woman’s issue; it’s a human one. Clearly, there is no shortage of feminist books you can read to advance your understanding and role in achieving gender equity. As THNKer Lina says, “There are so many, it’s hard to know where to start. But the important thing is: Just start!”

To ignite your inner feminist and unlock your full creative leadership potential, join the THNK Executive Leadership Program.