Some buying tips on guns for women, by a woman.
There's a newer gun model out that I will check into for my next gun purchase. It's called Sccy pronounced Sky. I haven't researched them thoroughly, but what I have heard and found, I like. Especially the price, size, weight, and crazy awesome warranty. They run about $250-$275. They are supposed to be pretty indestructible.
I like my gun too, it's a Glock 19 gen 3. Both of these are 9mm. In my opinion the 9 mm is the smallest caliber I would go. If you have to use it in defense, you want to stop someone, not piss them off. The Glock has a trigger safety only. The Sccy has one version with safety, one without. It may have a trigger safety on the one without, am not sure. Both guns are supposed to shoot no matter what you do to them. I know Glocks are easy to clean as Matthew said above. I don't care for the gen 4 as my finger rests on the trigger itself, not safe. Plus the grip is very uncomfortable in my hand. It does have adjustable back straps to adjust for the size of your hand that the gen 3 doesn't and comes with a 3rd cartridge. Then gen 3 has 2. As far as how mine handles, I love it. I only noticed recoil the first time I shot it. I was so nervous, it may have just been me, not the gun.
Also, gun guys a lot of times at the store will try to sell you a revolver instead of a semi-automatic. My instructor said a lot of women had problems cocking them, or doing the longer trigger pull instead.
Best thing to do is to go somewhere like Bullseye. They have where you can rent a gun for about $10 an hour. You have to buy their ammo at about $18/50 rounds. They let you trade out guns. You may want to decide what ones you want to try and make sure they are all the same caliber so you only have to buy one size ammo. Again, I would suggest 9 mm. Have them show you how to load them before you rent so you are not on the clock. Shoot 10-15 rounds depending on how many guns you want to try. Then change to the next gun and try it. You may want to buy a separate target for each gun and write the name of the gun on it. That way you can see how well you aim each of them. Read up online about how to aim using your sites and proper stance. If there's a woman there at the range store, ask her how she stands, accounting for the "girls" being in the way. You either hold your arms over the top. Or from the waist. I go over for a better stance. Have her show you how to hold it.
When you are done shooting be sure to wash your hands in cold water immediately. When you get home wash exposed skin in cold water. Wash clothes in cold water too. You want to get the lead off.
When you know what gun you want, call around for prices. Gun stores usually are the highest priced by a good margin. Just like the mark up on ammo. Get ammo at Wal-mart or Cabela's or some Ace Hardware stores have good prices. Check they have it in stock and ask them to hold it for you to pick up right away. Remember FMJ=full metal jacket is practice ammo. It's not good to use for defense as it's not as safe for that use. JHP=Jacketed Hollow Point is defensive ammo. Hollow points expand upon impact and should stop. FMJ's go through a person, wall, etc. and keep on going. Very dangerous to your neighbors and others.
Update: My Concealed Carry instructor told me that he's had multiple folks with Sccy on the range. They had multiple malfunctions within only the 25 rounds needed to qualify. He said my Glock 19 was a much better gun. Which is why I bought it in the first place. I did ALOT of research before I bought it. My best friend and another friend from church did ALOT of research too and both ended up going with Glock 19, one has a Gen 4 and I think the other a Gen 3. So you can't really go wrong with a Glock. If you don't like the 19, there are other 9 mm model Glocks you can try. I have huge hands, so mine is a good fit for me. But there are more compact Glocks too. I wouldn't get anything larger than a 19 though, as it's right at the maximum size you want to conceal. Any larger, you will have a hard time with concealed carry purses and some holsters.