The Pulse on Gender Equity in Seattle & Beyond

On my feminist bookshelf

Gender Equality OverallMartha BurwellComment

It's no lie that I am a total bookworm at heart.  Perhaps it’s something to do with growing up in the Pacific Northwest but there’s little I enjoy more on a rainy day than gathering a collection of Trader Joe’s snacks, pouring a mug of tea, and cozying up on the couch to read about how to smash the patriarchy. 

Here’s what’s currently on my bookshelf:

Rad Women WorldWide: Artists and Athletes, Pirates and Punks, and other Revolutionaries who Shaped History

By Kate Schatz and Miriam Klein Stahl (2016)

This is such a fun book. Each page features an illustration and a short bio of an amazing feminist. Learn about present and past heroines from all over the world, ranging from political activist Aung San Suu Kyi in Burma to Venus and Serna Williams in the U.S.A. to Hatshepsut in Egypt.  Perfect for a daily dose of inspiration in the morning with my coffee. Suitable for kids and adults alike. 

We Were Feminists Once: From Riot Grrrl to Cover Girl, the Buying and Selling of a Political Movement

By Andi Zeisler (2016)

Andi Zeisler, a founding editor of Bitch Magazine (which I love) doesn't hold back one bit in her new book. Though I’ve only just started it, the main focus is a criticism of for-profit companies cashing in on the feminist movement without creating real change.  Seeing “girl power” messages plastered on products sold by corporations that have no real investment in gender equity is dangerous. It's dangerous because we think we’ve made progress so we don't fight as hard, when really we’re just falling victim to a clever marketing ploy. 

Americanah: A Novel

by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (2013)

I’m a little late in reading this one from 2013, which is already fast on it's way to becoming a classic.  Author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie explores Blackness, feminism, class, nationality, and the power of language in this must-read.  She’s also the author of We Should All Be Feminists, based on her TedTalk by the same name.  I’ve been known to email this TedTalk to friends who are afraid to use the F word (feminist).

What Works: Gender Equality by Design

By Iris Bohnet (2016)

Published by Harvard University Press, this academic book is one of the most important current reads for business, nonprofit, public sector, and educational leaders committed to gender equity.  It goes beyond theory, and dives into how we can take steps to reduce the impact of unconscious gender bias (and other types of bias) in the way we run things.  It’s based in behavioral design theory, demonstrating how we can change how humans act through design.  The classic example is when orchestras began putting up curtains to “blind” them from seeing who was auditioning, and they immediately hired nearly twice as many women.  This book has been a key tool of mine when working with clients on making their business more inclusive and equitable.

Men Explain Things to Me

By Rebecca Solnit (2015)

If you’re a sucker for gorgeous writing that has the ability to pull emotions straight out of your chest, and you’re also a feminist, you’re not going to be able to put this one down. Rebecca Solnit has that unique ability to capture an intense feeling and put it into words that everyone can understand.  Like, say, the feeling when a man starts talking down to you, explaining a topic that you are in fact an expert in, assuming that you know nothing about it.  Men Explain Things to Me is a collection of essays that starts with her now-famous piece that resulted in the creation of the word “mansplaining.”

The Truth About White People

By Lola Peters (2015)

I was lucky to meet local author, nonprofit leader, and community changemaker Lola E. Peters at an event last summer, and picked up her book right away.  This collection of essays dig into racial power structures that are present in all parts of our lives—from where we work, to our relationships, to the women’s movement. It demands self-reflection, and real conversation.  I read only one essay at a time, giving myself time to absorb each one before I moved on to the next. 

Living History

By Hillary Rodham Clinton (2003)

This memoir, published 14 years ago, has been simultaneously inspiring and heartbreaking to read.  Inspiring because there is just so much good that this one woman has done.  No, she's not perfect, but she's done a hell of a lot more than we usually hear about. Heartbreaking because, well, I don’t think I need to explain.  Though you always have to take memoirs with a grain of salt, this book is full of not just her personal stories, but is also an education on gender and politics and how much, and yet also how little, things have changed in the past 70 years. 

Gender Balance: When Men Step Up

By various authors (2016)

Full transparency: I haven't started this one yet.  However, I'm more excited than might be reasonable for someone reading a Human Resources book.  Why? Because it is a gender equity book directed at men and masculinity.  Too much of the dialogue around gender in the workplace is aimed at women, telling them what they're doing wrong (Lean In / negotiate harder / have kids later / etc.). It's about time we start putting the responsibility on those in leadership positions (most of whom are still men) who have the power to change the cultures and business processes of their companies.  This is a collection of writing from top global business leaders who walk you through the benefits of gender equity and some techniques for how to approach this complex issue. You can also view the OECD panel from last year with several of the authors. 


By Kristin Cashore (2008)

Sometimes I just need something light and fun to read, and I’ve found my people in YA feminist fantasy.  Graceling follows heroine Katsa, who draws us through a fantastical story filled with battles, magic, and figuring out how to use power for good. Though there is a little romance, it’s refreshing to see a teen story that doesn’t revolve solely around wanting attention from a boy. 

Bonus: movies!

Hidden Figures: Opening January 6

This one comes out Friday, and I'm really looking forward to it. It's the story of the Black female mathematicians and engineers at NACA (now NASA) known as the West Computers.  Set in the 1960’s at the Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory in Hampton, Virginia, the work of these women has gone largely unrecognized until recently.  The movie is based on the book by the same name, written by author Margot Lee Shetterly, who explains how “Langley was not just a laboratory of science and engineering; ‘in many ways, it was a racial relations laboratory, a gender relations laboratory.’”

The Eagle Huntress: In theaters now

This epic story was so beautifully shot and heart-wrenchingly uplifting that people were actually cheering out loud in the theater when I saw it last weekend.

13 year old Aisholpan Nurgaiv is an incredible heroine—strong, courageous, and unwavering in her self-belief. Seeing a young brown girl question what she's been told about her role, and then decide how she wants to live her life, and succeed, is incredibly important and exhilarating in itself.  We don't see that enough in the cinema. But perhaps just as importantly, this film showcases the critical role of fathers in progressing gender equity. Without her father's support, Aisholpan would never have succeeded in the practice of using eagles to hunt in Mongolia, as it is traditionally only passed down from father to son. He was the gatekeeper of the knowledge, and also controlled her access to competitions, gear, and ability to travel to hunting grounds.  He consciously chose to defy social pressure. He chose to believe in his daughter, and train her in a skill that women and girls had never before had access to. That is a powerful message that everyone, especially fathers, need to hear more of. 


What books are you reading? What movies are you most excited about? Let me know on Twitter: @equalisea