Recently Sophia Amoruso, CEO of the online retail company Nasty Gal, found herself in back-to-back meetings with Nordstrom and the designer Michael Kors. "And the whole time," she writes, "I'm sitting in this meeting thinking, Oh my God, I stole a Michael Kors watch from Nordstrom when I was seventeen." It's an unlikely trajectory from shoplifting juvenile delinquent to head of a 300-plus employee company, but in#Girlboss, which is part memoir, part manifesto for all aspiring female entrepreneurs, Amoruso makes the trip look inevitable.
It all began with a love of hard work, which she channeled into misguided pursuits including dumpster diving and petty theft before finding her true passion selling vintage clothes online. She's not the only woman to use her own story of corporate domination to spur others to embrace their inner boss ladies. For more tales by and about women on top, check out these books.
Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg
This is the book that started the movement that's still going strong, a year after publication. In this part memoir, part call to action, Sandberg describes her own rise to COO of Facebook, and imparts the message that if she can do it, any woman can. Not just can, in fact — more women should pursue leadership positions, according to Sandberg, who writes that "men still rule the world" — and will continue to rule until women take their jobs.
Thrive by Arianna Huffington
By any metric, Arianna Huffington is the poster girl for the modern female CEO. As head of the Huffington Post Media Group, she is the extremely visible, seemingly tireless face of unquenchable ambition. But, as she writes in this memoir, that hard-driving approach to her career and life led her to a medical emergency that caused her to reevaluate her life and goals. True success, she writes, should be defined not just by money and power, but by how happy our life choices make us. Taking a speech she gave at Smith College as a starting point, she argues for women to invest in areas of their lives besides the bottom line – but not to sacrifice their career dreams, either.
Manrepeller by Leandra Medine
It is an unspoken truth of fashion: the looks women love, men often abhor. When Leandra Medine had this epiphany, she was trying on drop-crotch shorts and a sequined blazer and was, perhaps unsurprisingly, single. Rather than change her style to man-luring short skirts and tight tops, she parlayed her passion into a wildly successful website, The Man Repeller, and became a force in the New York fashion scene. She did ultimately find love, proving that the right guy will embrace the most unconventional style, even the organza moto jacket she wore on her wedding day. In this memoir, she writes why it's more important to follow your heart to a career than follow a man to a fashion disaster.
The Glitter Plan by Pamela Skaist-Levy and Gela Nash-Taylor
If you've ever walked behind a teenage girl with the word Juicy emblazoned across the butt of her sweatpants, you have Skaist-Levy and Nash-Taylor to thank (or curse.) The women were working together at a boutique when they bonded over their shared dream of finding the perfect t-shirt. When that search turned fruitless, they designed it themselves, and slowly built a casual-wear empire they sold to Liz Claiborne for $50 million. In this memoir, they describe the business philosophies they followed to grow their business from a $200 side project started in an apartment bedroom into a global brand.
This article originally appeared on Biographile.
Jennie Yabroff is a former arts writer for Newsweek magazine. She has also written for the New York Times, Salon.com, and Elle Decor. She lives in New York.
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