“GirlBoss” is the title of a smashingly successful book by a young, female entrepreneur detailing her Cinderella rise to fortune and fame. I see this phrase used daily in Instagram feeds, tweets, and Facebook posts. Seemingly implying power and a nod to the women’s rights movement this simple phrase makes me see red every single time. Knowing what I know about what it takes to be an entrepreneur, I am left wondering and confused about why any female leader would refer to herself or her cohorts as a “GirlBoss.”
I see it made cute with the infamous hashtag, as slogans on mugs and bags, and added to beautiful pictures by some of my favorite female entrepreneurs. Equally eye-roll inducing, it’s too often accompanied by a picture of said entrepreneur in high heels or sporting her favorite new lipstick. I get it. In our society, “Confidence = Beauty” but if high heels and bright lipstick make you feel confident, I challenge you to look beyond that. You should see that your brains and grit are what is really propelling you in your career. And that’s okay; in fact, it’s better than okay! It’s fantastic! I wish with all my heart that women/society would stop making beauty the end all goal.
Ladies...you are SO MUCH MORE.
As I type this I hold my baby girl in her favorite wrap and I hope to God that she never refers to herself as a #Girlboss. Or a GirlTeacher, GirlDoctor, GirlArtist, GirlLawyer, Girl(fill in the blank.) When “Girl” is added before any other profession it highlights the ridiculousness of it. Let’s play a rhetorical game. Take any profession and put the word “Boy” in front of it.
Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? I can’t imagine a female CEO of a company referring to herself as “GirlBoss.” While this may be an attractive stepping stone as one begins their journey, it’s important to know when you’ve gone beyond that and take off the training wheels. Any successful business owner has a business plan and referring to yourself as a “GirlBoss” isn’t going to propel you to that end; in fact it will hinder you. You will be creating your own disparity between being and not being “The Boss,” and people will recognize and respond to that.
To me, GirlBoss implies that, “Yes, while I’m in charge of people I haven’t forgotten my role as a traditional woman in society and I’ll do my best to be beautiful, sweet and not make anyone mad along the way, but if I do it’s okay because I’m adorable and everyone will love me for that anyway.”
Let me tell you. I founded and ran a coffee shop for 10 years and there are people that despise me because of decisions I had to make. I learned that one of the most happy-inducing rituals of our society can get some folks really fired up. I learned that running any business is exciting, stressful, fun and empowering all at the same time. Worrying about looking adorable while not hurting feelings at the cost of success makes for some long, sleepless nights, of which I had too many, especially in the early stages. This phrase “GirlBoss” is an obnoxious little goblin that stands on our shoulders highlighting how we ‘should’ behave.
“GirlBoss” yet again, infantilizes the successes of women. Historically women have been expected to remain gracious, sweet and kind through any trying situation. This really isn’t the case anymore and it’s okay if we make people mad and our hair doesn’t even look good while we do it.
When I think of a ‘Boss’ I think of someone who burns the midnight oil, making tough decisions regarding purchasing, employees, value to the client and waking up too often with dark circles under their eyes but going into work early to get a head start on the day. Because they WANT to and because they want nothing more than to see their business succeed. I see someone who revels in the success of themselves and their team and knows their customer is the true boss. I see someone who is bound and determined to find a solution but is keen enough to know when they’re throwing good money after bad. Nowhere in there to do I think of ‘beauty’ or ‘sweetness’ and when a picture is posted of lipstick accompanied by “GirlBoss” I cringe. You’re hiding all of your awesomeness from the world.
As a female business owner, I often was asked to do speaking events to women’s groups. One of the main questions was, “what roadblocks have you faced as a female business owner?” My resounding answer? None. Thanks to the Women’s Suffrage movement and the decades of women that followed who crashed through the glass ceiling so I could sail through. This unfortunate trend of a phrase is setting us back 100 years. I doubt Jane Addams, Florence Kelley and the like would have referred to themselves as a “GirlBoss.” They were just getting shit done and would be horrified to hear us women refer to ourselves as this.
So please, stop. You are so much more than a ‘GirlBoss.’ You are an entrepreneur, living a life that so many only wish for and so many worked so hard to ensure that you could. You lose sleep worrying about your business, your employees and your customers. If you’re just starting out, you’re crunching numbers endlessly so you have enough to take home after everything is paid for. You are pioneering in your field and you are carrying the torch passed to you by decades of spirited and hard working women. You are a BOSS. You don’t need to make it adorable simply because your shirt buttons on the opposite side of your male counterparts.