I finished two books over the holidays. Both were about men. Wealthy (or temporarily wealthy), powerful men in the business world. One was Walter Isaacson’s biography of Elon Musk. The other was Michael Lewis’s study of FTX founder and convicted fraudster Sam Bankman-Fried titled Going Infinite. Both were moderately interesting. Lewis has a turn of phrase that is intoxicating, even for a rehash of the crypto insanity of fraud committed by his subject. Isaacson is thorough, too thorough. The book probably weighs 5 pounds. I’m not a close follower of Elon Musk, and I now have a slightly better grasp on his incredible accomplishments and troll-like behavior.
As I finished the Musk biography, with Elon’s face staring at me every time I closed the cover, I couldn’t help but think, where are the books about successful women? Where are the biographies of female billionaires? I want to read those stories. I really would love to write those stories. Please send me recommendations. I am starting 2024 with a commitment to reading the best biographies of successful, powerful, wealthy women.
An internet search of the top biographies of successful women leaves much to be desired. The top-selling biography on Amazon in 2023 was The Woman in Me, the memoir of Britney Spears’. Surprise! She’s half-naked on the cover. Stephanie Land, whose 2019 memoir, Maid, was adapted into a Netflix series, follows up with a second chapter, Class: A Memoir of Motherhood, Hunger, and Higher Education. These are women writing their own stories, which I applaud. But why is there a lack of biographies written about women?
I have a few theories:
- Publishers don’t believe there’s a market for biographies of women. If so, they are dead wrong. Look at the success of the Barbie movie, Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour, and Beyonce’s Renaissance Tour. Women are voracious for good content made by women, for women.
- Authors are afraid biographies on women won’t sell. See why this is wrong above.
- Authors don’t think wealthy women are interesting. This is slightly different than #2. It takes hours (years) of dedication and research to write a biography. That’s impossible to do if you don’t find the subject interesting.
- Successful women don’t want to share their stories. There may be some truth here. Privacy is hard to come by in the 21st century. Wealthy women may not want to draw attention to themselves. I can make the case for why they should.
There are many remarkable women throughout history, but very few were wealthy. Women with wealth are a rare and recent phenomenon. Yes, they are historical exceptions: queens, empresses, and such. But I want to read about modern wealthy women. And before even begin with the eye-roll comments about heiresses, widows, and divorcees, think for a minute about your family’s involvement in your career.
More than learning how these fortunes were made, I want to know how it impacts their lives and what the money means to them. And I want to know what they plan to do with the wealth. I am constantly inspired by female philanthropists like Melinda French Gates, MacKenzie Scott, and Oprah. I want to know more about the growth stories of Sara Blakely at Spanx, Meg Whitman at eBay, and Rihanna’s Fenty cosmetics line. I am certain there are even better stories among the less well-known women in this group.
My career has been dedicated to helping people preserve and grow their wealth with peace of mind. To understand wealth is to understand the human condition. We are only learning about one-half of the human condition through these endless biographies of wealthy men. It’s time to close the gender gap in biographies. I’ve often said that young women must “see it to believe it.” It’s high time they had some better reading material.