Alright, so this post from Bob Owen (H/T to Uncle for the link) made me want to put in my two cent on novice, women shooters & their first guns.
IMHO, A beginner shouldn't be tied to one gun until they've had the chance to borrow / rent an assortment to find out what feels right. Sadly, there is no Sorting Hat to make purchasing a gun more like fate than trial & error. As a new shooter, buying multiple guns may not be fiscally prudent and when combined with the possible training and licensing costs, it may be impossible. Which is why I agree with Bob that, as an only gun, a snubbie revolver is a poor choice. It only fulfills one aspect of self defense (CCW) and doesn't encourage practice (no fun for a newbie to try and make cans dance with an airweight - trust me). The problems he outlined: heavy recoil, muzzle flash, poor sighting, etc would diminish or extinguish the enthusiasm to practice and to carry if that is the only weapon they have to work with. It'd be like learning to bowl with a 14 lb ball. It's hard to control, awkward, and by the end of a few frames your arm's sore and the pins are mocking you from the end of the lane. Afterwards, you wonder why the hell anyone found it fun to begin with.
However, when there is access to multiple firearms, I see an airweight as a natural choice for a beginner carry piece. They're light, easy to conceal, there's little excuse to leave it at home, and little chance of it not going 'bang' when needed. It does absolutely no good to have a nice, easy to shoot gun in the safe because you wonder where the hell you're going to hide it. As a woman & a relatively new shooter, I'd like to say that finding CCW friendly clothing that make you feel pretty (surprisingly important feature) and still allow you to carry a larger pistol or revolver is a PITA. For a new female shooter, it's just about mind boggling. The snubbie allows for purse carry (I know, not ideal - still better than nothing) and allows a woman to get used to carrying in different locations. From there, it's easier to move up to a more substantial gun and begin playing with CCW styles, holsters, etc. If they can't get over the initial "how do I conceal this," then the whole CCW thing is academic.
As a final thought, a new shooter shouldn't purchase a gun with the frame of mind that it will be the only gun they'll ever own or that it must serve all purposes. The phrase, "two is one and one is none" applies here; relying on one gun to perform all desired duties is impractical. I believe it's easier to find a near perfect grouping of guns than the 'perfect' gun. Case in point, I would never choose my airweight for my bedside defense, I have a nice, heavy revolver for that - which I'm not inclined to carry - and the bedside revolver is a secondary choice to the 870 shotgun for "bump in the night inspection" (for which the airweight is a meager, tertiary choice). They all serve a purpose and together make for a solid defense. The key point is to make self defense second nature as quickly as possible. If carrying an airweight accomplishes that, who's to say it's wrong?
*Note, I find semi-autos to be a fine choice for CCW (beginner or not) but the theme was snubbies / airweights and the post was long enough.