Courageous Conversation: Joining the #GirlBoss Debate

Brand consultancy and design studio Single Malt has started an exciting series. The series, Courageous Conversation, covers topics from inequality, the gender pay gap and women in design right through to debates around “print is dead” and the struggle of the work/life balance.

Have you heard/seen the term #GIRLBOSS recently? Maybe Boss Babe or Boss Lady? 

Some well-known figures in our industry recently discussed their hatred of these terms and sparked much debate online around this. In this week’s courageous conversation we discuss our opinion and hopefully give you some food for thought.

I started out with an Instagram poll to see if people in my [albeit small] social following had an opinion. And turns out they did, 72% hated it! 

“#GirlBoss” started out with Sophia Amoruso, the founder of fashion brand Nasty Gal, who coined the phrase and started a whole brand around the hashtag. Amoruso’s movement includes a successful book on female empowerment and more recently an online community who “exist to redefine success for millennial women by providing the tools and connections they need to own their futures”, but her movement has sparked a backlash.

Many successful, respectable women are offended by it, and I understand why – Whether it be the patronising infantilization of women through the term “girl” or the out of date oppressive use of the word “boss”, women everywhere are commenting on the term, debating it and writing about it. So it only feels relevant to today that we comment.

Anyone who knows me, knows I’m an advocate for female empowerment. In our studio, I actively try to encourage autonomy and confidence. So I can see where the gender backlash comes from. Women don’t want to be defined by our gender. As a woman in a leadership role, you want to be celebrated for your efforts and actions as a leader despite your gender. Defining the boss role through gender is outdated and regressive to all the hard-working people who are working to earn their seat at the table – regardless of their gender.

But I truly think the innocent term #girlboss doesn’t need to get as much hate as it does.

OK, so I’m not denying the term could be misinterpreted. But, I truly believe if you are a strong woman [girl, or lady] in a leadership position, or if you started a company, or if you are killing it in your field, that should be celebrated, and it should be celebrated in whatever way you feel comfortable, whatever the phrase may be.

Fortune posted recently that 5% of CEOs of the Fortune 500 companies are women. That’s only 25 women out of all those 500 CEOs, so anything that encourages young women to work hard, get their hands dirty and achieve something should be advocated. After all the movement started with Sophia Amoruso and her rags to riches story, of how her ambition and hard work built her vintage store on eBay to a 100 million dollar company with 350 employees. 

I feel that this girl boss, boss babe attitude has become such a part of popular culture now. The phrase is all over Instagram, on clothing, it’s normalised. If we start letting it have negative connotations it could be more regressive than before. Why don’t we let the women who use the phrase own it and be proud of it, let it empower them, fire them up and feel liberated?

 Empowered women empower women. So if the phrase doesn’t sit right with you don’t use it, but don’t dampen the spirits of the women who do use it. Let’s celebrate those women, after all, it's our job to inspire the next generation of female leaders.

If you want to know more about the courageous conversation then check out our post here for a bit of background into why we started the series.

Check out our first two posts in the series here… Courageous Conversation: Where are all the Women in Design? and Courageous Conversation: With Carol Burrow