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The Meaning and Perception of “Girl Boss”

Posted by Carson Bruner on

The term “girl boss” was first popularized in 2014 when Sophia Amoruso used it as a hashtag for her best-selling autobiography, which later turned into a popular television show.

The term was actually used much earlier as it was borrowed from a 1975 Betty Davis album. Originally, the term was meant to empower women by characterizing successful businesswomen who defiantly rebelled against the idea that successful businesswomen needed to impersonate masculine norms. Many women became self-proclaimed “girl bosses” and wore the badge with honor.

Fast forward a few years, and the term has taken a negative turn. No longer is “girl boss” a badge of honor that women happily wear. There is now the belief that using the term “girl boss” is denigrating, demeaning, sexist, and patronizing. The argument being the word “girl” draws attention to the “feminine” and infantilizes the role of a female boss. Women are not girls, just as men are not boys. We don’t hear the term “boy boss” or “man boss." Men who are considered bosses are just called "boss." So why the need to place an emphasis of gender on a term when women have been fighting for equality for decades?

 

Flipping the Script

 

In a world where there is an international movement for gender equality, the term “girl boss” as well as other terms should be shelved. Studies have shown that women have a mind for business and often have higher results in business achievement than men. In 2020, Caroline Waters wrote the following:

"Let’s consider some ‘women in business’ facts:

  • According to a Harvard Business Review study, female workers 'excelled' in 'taking the initiative, acting with resilience, practicing self-development, driving for results, and displaying high integrity and honesty'
  • Women were even perceived to be 'more effective in 84% of the competencies' that Harvard Business Review usually measures in companies 
  • Start-ups founded by women produce an average of $730,000 of revenue over five years, compared to $662,000 for companies with male founders 
  • Female-run start-ups produce an average 77% return on investment, compared to 31 percent from men."

Therefore, it is counterintuitive to put “girl” or “babe” or any other feminine word in front of the word boss. Women should get the same respect as their male counterparts and just be deemed a boss. Period. 

It seems women with more business experience under their belt are the ones who have turned on the term girl boss, while young women who are just starting out are perhaps okay with the term for now. Time will tell, but it seems that the experienced businesswomen will mentor the rising stars and teach them that dropping the gender identity of “boss” will be more empowering in the long run. 

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