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When Women Lead


Prepare to be inspired by and to learn from the stories of more than 60 highly-successful female CEOs and leaders who are featured in Julia Boorstin’s new book, When Women Lead: What They Achieve, Why They Succeed, How We Can Learn From Them

Boorstin shares that whether you’re a woman looking to rise in your organization or taking on a new leadership position, or a male leader looking to empower women in your organization this book is for you. 

The book is divided into three sections: 

The first section includes:

  • A focus on how and why women tend to build strong companies, staring with the structural challenges they must overcome to raise venture capital and scale their businesses.
  • An Impetus for women to structure their businesses in a more purpose-drive way.
  • How women build smart teams by embracing a growth mindset and welcoming varied perspectives. 

The second section primarily includes:

  • How women tackle complex problems. 

The third section focuses on:

  • The new patterns that women leaders are creating to break free from old male-dominated systems. 

Boorstin is CNBC’s Senior Media & Tech Correspondent and has been an on-air reporter for the network since 2006. Her new book is filled with extensive research, engaging stories, and plenty of learning takeaways. You’ll want to spend ample of time with this book.


Julia Boorstin 

Today, Boorstin shares these additional insights with us: 

Question: How did you decide which leaders to feature in your book? 

Boorstin: I could have written about hundreds-if not thousands–of different women's amazing stories. I started by asking VC investors which women struck them as most remarkable or had the most impressive journey. As I interviewed over 120 people, I looked for themes–and I organized stories into chapters based on the characteristics and approaches that the women were demonstrated. 

I wanted to tell surprising stories about women you've heard about before, like Rent the Runway founder Jenn Hyman and Bumble founder Whitney Wolfe Herd, and also stories about amazing entrepreneurs you probably haven't heard of, like Meena Sankaran, the CEO of water analytics company Ketos, or Toyin Ajayi, the founder and CEO of City Block Health. 

Question: What do you believe it will take for the business industry to fully embrace the value and benefits of women leaders? 

Boorstin: I think that companies and investors are missing out by not having more women in leadership roles--and not investing more in women. I think two key things will help to change that. 

First, it's essential to see the data I share in my book about the financial benefit of having women in leadership roles–there are a range of studies that have found that having diversity in gender and race in the c-suite and in boards improves corporate performance, that female founders yield higher returns to investors, and that having diversity among investors improves their performance as well. 

Second, I think we need to have more examples of successful female innovators. The more we can see stories about all sorts of different types of CEOs, who lead in all sorts of different ways--many of which haven't been traditionally associated with leadership--the more everyone will have a broader vision of what success in business looks like. 

Question: How did your experience working at Fortune and now CNBC shape you, and shape this book?

Boorstin: In the 16 years I’ve been a reporter at CNBC and the six years before that I worked for Fortune Magazine, I’ve interviewed thousands of CEOs. I’ve been fascinated to see how these leaders saw the world and approached problem-solving.


In the case of women, I’ve always been curious to understand how they managed to defy the odds and rise through the ranks to run companies and create game-changing businesses. I was struck that the way women led and tackled problems seemed in many ways different from the stereotypical archetype of male leadership–brash, bold, unwaveringly confident.


I found in my reporting that in fact, the ways that women led were just as effective, and in some cases, even more so. Now I'm hugely optimistic that businesses and investors will continue to embrace diversity because it simply drives better results.


Question: You share many commonalities that make women leaders all over the world uniquely equipped to lead, grow businesses, and navigate crises. What is the greatest commonality?

Boorstin: While I was struck by the diversity of success stories and approaches, one thing they all had in common is that all these women worked hard to hone their natural strengths. No one is born a leader and certainly not born a perfect leader.


I was impressed that these women had the humility to learn from their own mistakes and learn from others. It inspired me to know that we can all push ourselves to be better–not by competing against others but by measuring our own progress against our own benchmarks. 


Question: The book shares engaging stories from more than 60 female CEOs and leaders including Whitney Wolfe Herdand and Jennifer Hyman who have defied the odds and transformed business. Can you share your favorite piece of advice?

Boorstin: I was surprised to learn that it’s good to NOT be confident all the time–and that confidence SHOULD be on a dial.


Various studies in the book find that it’s useful to be able to dial down your confidence and explore all your concerns and doubts when you’re gathering information to solve a problem. When you’re in that data-gathering mode, humility will let you draw on the most useful data. Then when you’ve made your decision about how to proceed and it’s time to execute, you dial up your confidence. I have personally found this incredibly useful and empowering.


Question: This book isn’t just for women. Can you explain why these lessons are also important for male leaders?

Boorstin: I believe that my book will resonate with women and inspire them to unlock their strengths, but I think it may be even more important for men to read, to help them to succeed in this fast-changing business world.


Many of the characteristics I highlight are more frequently used by women–but they have also been found to be effective when used by men.


Take an approach called “servant leadership” to prioritize employees and customers, or using empathy to identify new business opportunities, or embracing gratitude, which has been found to enable leaders to prioritize long-term outcomes. These leadership approaches work–and men should benefit them as well.


It’s also important for men to understand the challenges women face around stereotype and pattern matching. If men can see how much unconscious bias is holding women back–and can see the new patterns set by the leaders in my book–the more they’ll be able to unlock the opportunity by investing in women. 


Question: What’s the first step men and women should take to start applying your advice tomorrow?

Boorstin: We all have workplace superpowers–whether it’s a love of asking questions or an ability to draw out diverse perspectives from a team. Think about what your strengths are or a skill you’d like to improve upon. Is it finding the forest through the trees? Being a “fire preventer” rather than a firefighter–preventing workplace crises before they happen? Focusing on long-term outcomes rather than near-term gains? Then create benchmarks so you can improve upon your skills and measure your progress. The most valuable superpowers might look nothing like “powers”–and we all have tools we can improve on and deploy.


Thank you to the book’s publisher for sending me an advance copy of the book.


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