10 Absolute Must-Reads for Women Working in Tech
Let’s face it, ladies. The tech industry has been a boy’s club for far too long.
But times are a-changin’!
Even though women have a long history in the industry, it’s taken decades to get a seat at the table. Today we’re developers, team leads, and CEOs. Of course, there are still miles to go in the march for equality. But with women around the world raising their voices to make tech companies more inclusive, it’s hard not to get just a teensy bit excited for the next generation of female go-getters.
If you want to be a part of this positive change — and help other women succeed alongside you — you’ll need a game plan.
We’ve got you covered.
Looking beyond Sheryl Sandburg’s Lean In (required reading for aspiring women in any field), we’ve rounded up 10 must-read books, blogs, and more for women in tech. Add these to your reading list (or blog feed) for a dose of tech news, opinions, career and leadership advice, and solidarity from women like you.
1. Innovating Women: The Changing Face of Technology
“Where are all the women?”
This is the question technology and entrepreneurship researcher Vivek Wadhwa considered at the TechCrunch Crunchies Awards in 2009 — at the nudging of his wife, Tavinder, who was the first of the two to notice a deep gender gap at the Oscar’s of the tech world.
Inspired by that experience, Wadhwa joined forces with journalist Farai Chideya and set out to take a look at women in tech (and the lack thereof), the challenges they face, and why they are needed in the field in their book, Innovating Women.
Yeah, our first women-in-tech book recommendation originated with a man. But don’t worry!
Acknowledging that he wasn’t exactly qualified to speak from the heart on this issue (and wanting to avoid mansplaining), he crowdsourced funding and worked with female contributors, ranging from former Google VP Megan Smith to venture capitalists to startup CEOs to middle managers.
A collection of stories, interviews, and essays from hundreds of leaders around the world in STEM careers, the book shares the experiences of various women in technology and entrepreneurship. It’s also a book about innovation and an exploration of the most creative (female) minds in the field. It shows what women are doing to close the gender gap in the field, what contributions women are making in their fields, offers encouragement and advice to women who want to enter and succeed in tech, and shares how women tackle an unbalanced work environment.
It’s a great read if you’re looking for a feel-good book that shares inspiring stories and ideas.
2. Girl Code: Unlocking the Secrets to Success, Sanity, and Happiness for the Female Entrepreneur
If you’re a lady with an entrepreneurial itch, Girl Code is your book, whether you want to build a side hustle or the next social media empire.
But don’t read for advice on how to start up a startup or how to create and run your business — author Cara Alwill Leyba digs a little deeper into the foundations of what makes a good entrepreneur, and specifically, a good and successful female entrepreneur. She takes a look at how to build confidence, brush yourself off after failure, ignore the haters, and avoid jealousy of other people’s success.
Central to her book is the importance of women supporting other women in their goals and entrepreneurial endeavors.
“In today’s competitive marketplace, the fiercest thing a female entrepreneur can do is to support other women,” Leyba asserts.
The ultimate girl-power guide for entrepreneurs written with a “girlfriend-to-girlfriend” voice, Girl Code is full of helpful advice and support for your entrepreneurial endeavors.
3. The Glass Universe: How the Ladies of the Harvard Observatory Took Measure of the Stars
You’ve probably seen (or read) Hidden Figures, the story of the black women who worked as “computers” for NASA, running the math that powered the first rocket launches that sent astronauts to the moon.
The Glass Universe runs in a similar vein: think ladies, space, science, and an unhealthy dose of gender bias. Author Dava Sobel highlights the sadly unknown and under-appreciated role of women in the history of science by exploring the lives and legacies of women who worked in the Harvard College Observatory in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
These students — math whizzes, astronomy buffs, physics majors — were among the few women at the time to have the opportunity to work in science and technology. Their contributions included groundbreaking work in studying, documenting, and photographing the stars in the night sky and lead to the creation of the first academic fellowships and research grants for women in the sciences.
The struggles of these women in a male-dominated field — much more lopsided than it is today — will feel familiar. But more than that, this book will make you immensely grateful for all the brave women who paved the way for your generation and mine.
4. Hardball for Women: Winning at the Game of Business
Hardball for Women is a classic — an oldie-but-goodie updated, as the newest edition boasts, for the “post-Lean In era.” This book asserts that women are not men — duh — and the rules and tactics that help a man get ahead may, sadly, be detrimental to a woman, thanks to subconscious gender biases.
For example, an assertive man may be rewarded, while an assertive woman may be considered lacking in social skills. Because advice given to and by men may not always be helpful to a woman looking to advance in her career, author Tammy Hughes tailors leadership guidance specifically for women.
While not specifically focused on technology fields, Hardball is written for women who work in male-dominated careers — or, at least, a male-dominated office. The author coaches women who want to get ahead in their careers and develop leadership skills to be aware of gender biases and how men and women behave differently in the workplace, and how to use that information to their advantage. Hughes aims to help women promote themselves and use language, verbal and nonverbal to be assertive and effective in communicating.
Overall, this book looks at the challenges men and women face in working with each other and how they can work together to create a balanced workplace culture.
Tech entrepreneur and writer Corvida Raven started blogging as a 19-year-old college student and has since drawn attention (and awards) to her blog, SheGeeks.net. She’s known for blogging about social media, tech gadgets, and more — and for her trademark style of writing about tech in “plain English,” which she says draws on her days helping family members with computer problems.
For an introduction to her style and ethos, check out her post about inclusion in technology and browse around her Instagram and Twitter accounts. In 2009 Raven was named one of the 50 Most Influential Women in Technology, and she’s worked in social media and more with General Motors, FastCompany, and TED.
Check out SheGeeks for no-nonsense reviews of new technology, social media how-tos to beef up your online presence, and for easy-to-read articles you can forward to your non-techie friends (and hopefully help another woman spark interest in the field).
6. Women of Silicon Valley
Inspired by the on-the-street photos and meaningful interview snippets of Humans of New York, college student Lea Coligado set out to find the female powerbrokers of Silicon Valley.
On “Women of Silicon Valley,” hosted on both Medium and Facebook, Coligado interviews women professionals in technology, uncovering surprising anecdotes and advice — and sometimes showcasing the good, the bad, and the ugly of the real world of women in tech.
For example: Pinterest’s Tracy Chou described facing “blatant sexism . . . so outright as to be comical,” while Sara Mauskopf of Postmates described becoming the first woman at her company to have a baby: “Now that I’m pregnant, I am more driven than ever to make something of myself, if for no other reason than to prove it can be done . . . working with such awesome and supportive colleagues definitely makes my ‘trailblazing’ easier and enjoyable.”
Quick-to-read Q&A profiles are posted regularly, so be sure to look through the archives and give Women of Silicon Valley a follow — and maybe submit a friend for consideration to be featured on the blog.
7. Women in Tech: Take Your Career to the Next Level with Practical Advice and Inspiring Stories
This book starts readers off with a sad statistic: in 1984, 38 percent of computer science degrees were awarded to women. Not too shabby for the “olden days.”
But fast forward to 2010, and that number dropped to 10 percent. While other fields like law and medicine are attracting more women, the tech field, says author Tarah Wheeler Van Vlack, is failing. She blames (spoiler alert) a cultural unconscious gender bias, and sets out to do her part to make the tech industry more appealing and less mysterious for women.
Women in Tech combines practical career advice and personal stories from female entrepreneurs and tech professionals to motivate, inspire, and show women what a career in the field is like and how to succeed in it. Guest writers include Brianna Wu of Giant Spacekat and Angie Chang of Women 2.0 (another women-in-tech blog worth a follow).
Geared toward women who are considering jumping into tech, this book is a great read if you are just launching your career, or if you are looking for a boost further up the career ladder. Or you may want to get a few copies of this book to pass on to your mentees or women you want to encourage into the field. Bonus: this book started off on a Kickstarter campaign — it doesn’t get too much geekier than that!
8. The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage
Did you know that the world’s first coder was a woman?
Ada Lovelace, born in 1815, was the only legitimate daughter of the poet Lord Byron — and one of the first computer scientists. Her mother, determined to make sure Ada never became a head-in-the-clouds poet like her father, had her tutored solely and extensively in science and math.
At age 17, Lovelace teamed up with Charles Babbage and envisioned a machine that can calculate and envision anything — numbers, music, words — and she even wrote a sample computer program for it. While the machine was never built, her notes were referenced by engineers creating the first computer.
In The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage, author Sydney Padua turns Lovelace’s story into an exciting graphic novel that’s mostly accurate — well, other than envisioning an alternate ending in which the duo succeed in building their computer, which never actually happened.
This steampunk-esque novel is an adventure through the early history of modern tech — and while it takes liberties with reality (ahem), it’s filled with notes that keep you grounded in the “real” history.
Interested in a more straightforward history featuring the pioneering work of Lovelace? Walter Issacson’s The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution frames a history of the tech world with Lovelace’s story, tracing its influence to the present day.
9. Tech Diversity Files
As a woman, do you ever feel a bit out of place in so-called “tech culture”? Tech Diversity Files is a blog about inclusivity in tech hosted on Medium with a handful of contributors, all looking to expand the vision of a programmer or coder as a twenty-something white male living off Hot Pockets and foosball.
Women in the tech field might start with this article by entrepreneur, professor, and developer Rachel Thomas. The gender disparity in tech is not, she argues, a pipeline problem, but because it’s a field that can be genuinely hostile to women who make it there. She describes how she fell in love with programming — but not with “tech culture,” so much that she considered leaving the field, which “would have been devastating, but staying was tough.”
Thomas continues: “I’m not the stereotypical male programmer in his early 20s looking to ‘work hard, play hard.’ I do work hard, but I’d rather wake up early than stay up late, and I was already thinking ahead to when my husband and I would need to coordinate our schedules with daycare drop-offs and pick-ups.”
“Kegerators and ping pong tables don’t appeal to me. I’m not aggressive enough to thrive in a combative work environment. Talking to other female friends working in tech, I know that I’m not alone in my frustrations,” Thomas says.
Check out Thomas’s article for stats, problems, and solutions for both men and women to help close the gap — and make sure to poke around and follow the rest of Tech Diversity Files for conversation and stories about inclusivity in tech.
Where do you go for the latest in tech news? Mashable, Gizmodo, and Wired are great sources — and regularly tackle issues of gender and inclusivity in the field, and they feature female writers and bloggers.
But if you haven’t already, add Recode.net to your list.
While not specifically geared just for women, its founder and executive editor, Kara Swisher, is a powerhouse woman in the tech world. Swisher is a longtime tech journalist who previously wrote articles and a tech column for the Wall Street Journal. After leaving the Wall Street Journal, Swisher founded Recode as a source for tech news.
She’s the tech writer most followed by other US techies, so adding her work to your regular reading list would put you in good company. And while not technically the written word, don’t forget to check out Swisher’s podcast, Recode Decode, for more news, interviews, and discussion.
Hungry for even more reads, digital or otherwise? Check these out!
- The Secret Loves of Geek Girls: A graphic novel anthology (including contributions from Margaret Atwood and Trina Robbins) about the passions, plights, and love lives of geeky girls and girls who code.
- Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy: After losing her husband, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandburg, of Lean In fame, addresses resiliency in the face of difficult times.
- Melinda Gates on Medium: Melinda Gates, wife of Microsoft guru Bill Gates, focuses her philanthropy (and her blogging) on girl power. Start with her post on five badass women of science.
- Femgineer: The blog and digital innovation education platform created by Poornima Vijayashanker, a Mint.com founding engineer, to help techie entrepreneurs from all backgrounds build companies and products.
— Reporting by Sara Atwood