Book Review: In the Company of Women

Inspiration and advice from over 100 artists, makers, and entrepreneurs
By Kat Piper
Kat Piper
Kat Piper
November 9, 2016 Updated: November 9, 2016

New-Yorker Grace Bonney is well known in the creative community as the founder of Design*Sponge, an influential design blog that has morphed over the years into a support network for creative business owners.

Author of DIY interior design book Design*Sponge at Home, when tasked with writing another, Bonney decided instead to do something different. Travelling around America with photographer Sasha Israel, she interviewed over 100 creative female businesswomen, from artists and fashion designers to museum directors and restaurateurs. The result is her gorgeous new book In the Company of Women.

The book itself is beautifully styled, with its matt hardback cover and embossed writing. And the photography is incredible, capturing the essence of each of these women in their homes or places of work (which are sometimes the same place).

This is not your usual business advice book. It’s a book that celebrates diversity in the truest sense of the word, the women being of all ages, races, backgrounds, industries, and experience. Bonney adds interviews with women from countries across the globe, including the UK, Italy, Australia, and Nigeria, giving the book an international feel and appeal.

Some of these women are household names (some more well known to US readers), some head large organisations, but most run small operations or are solopreneurs. This doesn’t make their achievements or insights any less valid or aspirational, or their stories any less compelling. In many ways it makes them easier to identify with and draw inspiration from, with money not being the prime focus of success.

In fact, relatability was Bonney’s goal in writing this book so “any woman, anywhere can open to a page and see herself reflected”, she says in the introduction.

These are women living their lives on their own terms. They acknowledge the challenges, the sacrifices, and the tough choices they have made. But what comes through most is a sense of joy in living what they feel is their vocation both on a day-to-day basis and in terms of their loftier lifetime goals – and the freedom that comes with that.

It’s also not just about them – their aspirations are often one of helping others, using their talents to lift up their communities around them.

And there’s some good advice too, for anyone trying to carve his or her own path in the world: hire professionals to do the things you can’t; be kind and never burn bridges; have a routine; invest in training; trust your instincts; be you.

My only criticism is with the same questions asked to each per­son, it can get a little repetitive, with the answers also sometimes being a little brief. And sometimes you are left wanting to know more about what they actually do.

However, through a seemingly simple concept, Bonney has achieved a remarkable feat of recording a snapshot of social history, in a time when women have never been freer to pursue their dreams, yet are still grappling with how to do so in a rapidly changing world with many problems still to overcome.

In the Company of Women, published by Artisan Books. $35

Kat Piper