Every millennial will know all about the "girl boss" culture that arose in the early 2010s. Popularized by failed CEO Sophia Amuroso, the idea was that women could succeed in business, which is traditionally more associated with men and masculinity. As time went on, the ethos has been criticized for being conveniently incremental and reductive in its quest for systematic change, especially after many of its adherents and supporters received allegations of workplace racism and running toxic environments.
While the idea of female empowerment is always valuable, the way the book and its philosophy went about failed to account for all the ways the system is not necessarily built to empower and support women of all stripes. The flaws of the ethos were also made prominent in the wake of the pandemic and the recession that ensued because not everyone has the privilege and resources to build an empire.
If the pandemic has taught us anything, it's that some concepts that pretend to be empowering can be toxic, and the concept of being a girl boss is one of them. Here are some tips from the movement that aspiring entrepreneurs can do away with as the year comes to a close.
The "do-it-all" mindset
One toxic space that girl bosses glamorized was hustle culture, all about working ourselves to the ground until we achieve our goals. The global health crisis shone a light on why workaholic needs to stop being glamorized and romanticized and that productivity can be achieved even without sacrificing our health and well-being.
If you are running your own business, you don't need to do it all, especially if you also have a family to take care of. If an area of your business is not one of your core strengths or skill sets, it's OK to admit that and partner with people who do know a thing or two about the task. Consider outsourcing some big chunks of the work-for example, if you own a home care facility, consider partnering with reputable marketing professionals who specialize in pay-per-click (PPC) services for nursing homes to help you find leads and to convert them into sales.
Trying to do all and be all for everyone will drain you of your energy, might cause fatigue, and eventually cause you to lose passion for your business. To be a truly successful leader, we need to learn when to ask for help and to delegate tasks without running our bodies and minds to the ground.
The "cool girl" aesthetic
As time went on, the shallowness of the girl boss started to become more apparent as its adherents were overwhelmingly white, skinny, and traditionally beautiful according to society's standards. While there's nothing wrong with these characteristics, the girl boss as an aesthetic left little to no room for diversity, despite its claims of inclusivity.
This fact came to a head when many known girl bosses started to step down from their positions as CEO or business executives in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests in the middle of 2020, when many of their employees of color, both past and present revealed the lack of inclusivity in their companies.
If you want to be an effective female boss, don't use diversity and inclusivity as an aesthetic or a marketing tool on Instagram. Be sincere in your desire to hire employees of all genders, ages, and races to appear "cool."
The simplistic solutions to systematic issues
If there's one thing feminists agree on, it's that girl bossing is a reductive and simplistic take on a systematic and global problem. It posits an incredibly simplistic solution-putting more women in charge-to an issue that affects half of humanity in a non-Western and non-first-world context.
If you truly want to make a change as a female entrepreneur, why not advocate for systematic changes that will benefit women of all kinds across the nation? Some examples include closing the gender pay gap, affordable childcare, and more flexible working hours. There is nothing simple, easy, or sexy about these issues. Simply putting more women in power is not the only solution-especially if those women come from a place of privilege and lack of desire to center the marginalized.
None of these issues are easy, but if women truly hold up half the sky, we need to use our resources to lift others, especially those already down. This means helping to change systems, no matter how small our business or influence is. Believe that our collective action can truly change things for good and the better and play our part.