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Women in Leadership Cohort Experience leaders Candace Campbell Jackson and Dara Royer share books from the WiL Summer Reading List at Syracuse University.

Enrich your leadership journey with professional development books written by esteemed women.

Syracuse University’s Women in Leadership initiative aims to educate and empower leaders across campus.

To complement the experiential learning, coaching, and hands-on assignments that make up our Cohort Experience, WiL also encourages participants to take leadership inspiration from professional development books written by powerful, diverse and thought-provoking women authors. Below are nine titles from the Women in Leadership Summer Reading List.

Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand in the Sun and Be Your Own Person by Shonda Rhimes

"Year of Yes" book by Shonda Rhimes.

Shonda Rhimes is the creator of hit television shows like Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal and How to Get Away with Murder. At one point in her life, she was also an introvert who buried herself in work and turned down nearly every invitation that came her way. Things changed when for one year, Shonda said yes to everything that scared her.

Year of Yes is a heartfelt and hilarious memoir that explores Shonda’s life before and after her Year of Yes. It chronicles how she went from quietly creating beloved television characters to appearing on Jimmy Kimmel Live, giving the Dartmouth Commencement speech and learning to love her truest self.

Joyful: The Surprising Power of Ordinary Things to Create Extraordinary Happiness by Ingrid Fetell Lee

"Joyful" book by Ingrid Fetell Lee.

Ingrid Fetell Lee is a designer and presenter of the TED Talk “Where Joy Hides and How to Find It.” In Joyful, she explores how the seemingly mundane objects and spaces we interact with each day have surprising and powerful effects on our mood. Drawing on insights from psychology and neuroscience, she explains why one setting can make us feel anxious, while another fosters feelings of acceptance and delight. Most importantly, she reveals how we can harness how we feel about our surroundings to live fuller, healthier and happier lives.

Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone by Brené Brown

"Braving the Wilderness" book by Brené Brown.

Social scientist Brené Brown, PhD, MSW, is known around the world for starting conversations about the experiences that bring meaning to our lives—experiences of love, courage, vulnerability, empathy, belonging, and shame.

In Braving the Wilderness, she redefines what it means to truly belong in a world that is increasingly polarized. Through her trademark mix of research, storytelling and honesty, Brown introduces four practices for finding true belonging that will challenge everything we believe about ourselves and those around us.

Shatter the Sky: What Going to the Stratosphere Taught Me About Self-Worth, Sacrifice, and Discipline by Col. Merryl Tengesdal (Ret.) 

"Shatter the Sky" book by Col. Merryl Tengesdal (Ret.).

In this inspiring memoir, retired Colonel Merryl Tengesdal invites readers into her world, sharing lessons on everything from growing up in the Bronx, to her career in the military, being the first and only Black woman to pilot the U2 aircraft, to marriage and motherhood – and everything in between.

Through her honest, refreshing, and witty storytelling style, Tengesdal chronicles her triumphs and her disappointments, sharing her telling her life as she lived it – in her own words and on her own terms. Shatter the Sky is the personal story of a leader who steadily defied expectations – and whose story inspires us all to do the same.

200 Women: Who Will Change the Way You See the World by Geoff Blackwell and Ruth Hobday 

"200 Women" book by Geoff Blackwell and Ruth Hobday.

Explore the diverse experiences of women around the world through this compilation of interviews with 200 individuals from different backgrounds.

Journey through the poignant and uplifting stories as each woman responds to the same five questions: What truly matters to you? What brings you happiness? What is the lowest depth of misery for you? If you could, what would you change? Which single word do you most identify with?

Their varied answers provide gifts of empowerment and strength, encouraging us to foster positive change in a world where many are advocating for fundamental freedom and equality.

Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment by Patricia Hill Collins 

"Black Feminist Thought" book by Patricia Hill Collins.

Despite facing the dual challenges of racial and gender discrimination, African American women have cultivated a robust intellectual tradition that remains relatively obscure. Patricia Hill Collins embarked on this exploration in her 1990 work, Black Feminist Thought, shedding light on the words and ideas of Black feminist intellectuals and writers, both within and outside the academic sphere.

Collins offers an interpretive framework for the contributions of prominent Black feminist thinkers such as Angela Davis, ell hooks, Alice Walker and Audre Lorde. Through a synthesis of fiction, poetry, music and oral history, the book emerges as a finely crafted and groundbreaking work, providing the inaugural comprehensive overview of Black feminist thought and its canon.

The Rise: Creativity, the Gift of Failure, and the Search for Mastery by Sarah Lewis

"The Rise" book by Sarah Lewis.

The gift of failure poses a paradox: it signifies both emptiness and the genesis of boundless potential. The Rise unfolds as a multifaceted narrative—part exploration into a psychological enigma, part discourse on creativity and art and part heartfelt tribute to the resilience and bravery of the human spirit.

This compelling argument contends that many of humanity's most remarkable accomplishments trace their origins to an understanding of the pivotal role played by failure. Crafted over four years, this exquisite biography of an idea delves into the improbable foundations of creative human endeavors.

Each chapter delves into the underestimated value of certain concepts, exploring themes such as the potency of surrender, the necessity of play for innovation, how a "near win" can propel one toward mastery, and the significance of grit and creative practice.

Jane Crow: The Life of Pauli Murray by Rosalind Rosenberg

"Jane Crow" book by Rosalind Rosenberg.

In this definitive biography, Rosalind Rosenberg presents a poignant portrayal of Pauli Murray, a pivotal figure in both the modern civil rights and women's movements.

Raised as a mixed-race orphan in segregated North Carolina, Murray sought refuge in New York, where she attended Hunter College and became a labor activist in the 1930s. Facing racial discrimination, she was rejected from graduate school at the University of North Carolina despite her familial ties to the institution. Undeterred, Murray excelled at Howard Law School, only to encounter gender-based rejection from Harvard University for graduate study.

Undaunted, she forged a distinctive legal career. Appointed by Eleanor Roosevelt to the President's Commission on the Status of Women in 1962, Murray championed the concept of Jane Crow, asserting that the same arguments against racial discrimination could combat gender bias. In the early 1970s, Murray provided Ruth Bader Ginsburg with the argument that would convince the Supreme Court that the Fourteenth Amendment protects not only racial minorities but also women from discrimination. Despite grappling with issues of identity, Murray, now recognized as transgender, lacked social movement support during her lifetime. Her personal experience of being "in between" became a public assertion that identities are fluid—a notion that has fueled the fight for equal rights in the United States for the past fifty years.

The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz 

"The Four Arrangements" book by Don Miguel Ruiz.

Bestselling author Don Miguel Ruiz unveils the origin of self-limiting beliefs that deprive us of joy and cause unnecessary suffering. Drawing from ancient Toltec wisdom, The Four Agreements provide a potent code of conduct capable of swiftly reshaping our lives into a fresh encounter with freedom, genuine happiness and love.