Have her take some shooting courses; it will give her a chance to try various weapons. Get one that fits her hand and in a light cartridge, that she can enjoy shooting to build skills. It is ain't fun she will never learn to shoot good.
I have 3 snub nose 38 revolvers, they are the toughest pistol to shoot, so I'd not start there.
32 auto is good but costs a fortune to shoot. might want to get a 22 auto for some shooting this christmas and then after she builds some skill get something more CCW oriented (for her birthday). sig P232 in 380 is about the best.
revolver all the way. simple to load, unload, and fire. no bells and whistles. some claim they are hard to shoot. at the distances of most self defence accurracy not an issue. point/click. contrary to most magazine/tv scenes a gun with big power and capacity is not really needed as we are only intending to stop an action that must not continue not go out on a search and destroy mission. research and one will find the overwhelming number of self defence events have very few shots fired and at very close range. police use is a TOTALLY different subject.
Depending how she takes to some shooting lessons, you could go a couple of different ways...
not an avid shooter - best would be a hammerless snub .38, maybe one of the .380's. I have mixed feelings here - I own a kel-tec and do carry it - it is a somewhat harder gun to carry and shoot accurately. I beleive autos need to be maintained closer than a revolver, so a snub still gets my vote for a non regular shooter.
avid shooter - step up to a auto loading handgun. I suggest Glock 26 or another model.
I suggest a revolver.A small frame revolver. The extra weight is an advantage to larger frames when shooting at the range but it really will come down to ease of use and ease of carry.If it is a fight or flight it won't mater that it is a magnum (but at the range it will).If the gun won't be used for constant target practice.Snubby's aren't fun to shoot for some people because of how loud they are with the short barrel. I suggest a ported gun to try and keep the muzzle flip down if it is a Mag.
So, this leads to a lightweight revolver in .357mag. She can shoot .38's out of the same gun when at the range practicing and keep it loaded with people stopping .357
My wife has an SP101 in .357. I think it is a tad too big for her size but she wants that knock down power if it is ever needed(hopefully not).It isn't bad to shoot .38 wad cutters out of but it becomes a different gun when blasting .357mag out of that little pipe.
I also have a 3913 S&W that I carry that is probably too complicated for her right now since she doesn't have much handgun experience. The 9 is much like a .38 but doesn't have the knockdown power of a 10mm or .357 but it is lighter and a sngle stacker( magazine bullet profile)which makes the gun thin.
If it will be carried in a purse I would go with the lightweight mag revolver and buy target .38's.In purse or hip I would get a hammerless(snag-less) gun.Both of our carry guns are bobbed at the hammer.
Ruger LCP is a good choice.
My fathers G\F carries a judge.it also fits well as this type of carry gun. It can also shoot 4\10 slugs!