As we near the end of Women’s Month in South Africa, I have been making a concerted effort to read books that tell the stories of women both in South Africa and in other parts of the world. During the month that is dedicated to women, I was able to read five biographies of remarkable women.
1. Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes
Most of the time, I read books about leadership and business. As an introvert, I thought it would be interesting to read about introvert who challenged herself by saying “Yes” to activities more typically associated with extroverts. Shonda wore her pride in having created, or at least popularised, the term “Badass,” on her sleeve. Shonda exemplifies what it means to have a great profession as a woman while also being a dedicated mother.
Here is my review of the book: Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes
2. The Chancellor: The Remarkable Odyssey of Angela Merkel by Kati Marton
This is easily my favourite book on leadership. I’m a fan of Angela Merkel. Her quiet confidence, her sense of less talk and more getting things done. This book tells the incredible story of an unassuming woman who became Europe’s most powerful figurehead. How she handled challenging leaders like Putin and Trump, the Iraq War, leading and building Germany into a powerful and booming economy, and navigating with China are all covered in the book.
Here is my review of the book: The Chancellor: The Remarkable Odyssey of Angela Merkel by Kati Marton
3. Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou
This is the opposite of Angela Merkel. This is the story of a young lady, Elizabeth Holmes, who started her company Theranos in 2003 at the age of 19. She was a billionaire by the age of 30. Her company, Theranos, claimed its revolutionary finger-prick test could screen for hundreds of diseases with a few drops of blood. Theranos promised to make old-fashioned venous blood draws obsolete. The trouble was caused by the ineffectiveness of her blood testing technology. A single card of suspicion at the foundation of the building brought the entire structure to its knees, similar to a house of cards.
Here is an article I wrote based on the story: A thin line between ambition and delusion
4. Conquering The Poverty of the Mind – MaZwane’s Story written by Rita Zwane and Isabella Morris
This is a remarkable entrepreneurship story of MaZwane. Rita Zwane [aka MaZwane] is a classic story of rags to riches. She was born with a strong drive to achieve, and she developed this trait while growing up in the Umlazi Township in KwaZulu Natal. Rita Zwane opened Imbizo Shisanyama Busy Corner at Ivory Park. The notion of commercialiSed Shisanyama was founded then and is now one of South Africa’s fastest-growing culinary, beverage, and hospitality industries.
Here is an article I wrote based on the story: Hunger and pride
5. The Code Breaker: Jennifer Doudna, Gene Editing, and the Future of the Human Race by Walter Isaacson
In “The Code Breaker,” we follow Jennifer Doudna as she attempts to solve some of biology’s greatest challenges. Doudna, who was told as a child that she couldn’t pursue a career in science, went on to become one of the most influential thinkers and generous genetic researchers in the United States. A story of a remarkable woman [Jennifer Doudna], in a difficult field [biology], written by a legendary author [Walter Isaacson].
Here is my review of the book: The Code Breaker: Jennifer Doudna, Gene Editing, and the Future of the Human Race by Walter Isaacson
Women have the capacity to establish extraordinary businesses and lead nations with astonishing precision. These stories have served to remind me that women are capable of incredible things when given a platform and that even when they aren’t, they can create their own platforms and succeed.
Sawubona Mbokoto, we see you.