In a flurry of entrepreneurial endeavours women more than ever are sitting in the driver’s seat. Taking on new challenges and demanding a seat at the table, not just waiting politely in the lobby. But for every captain steering their way, there’s a detraction, she can never be the boss outright. Instead the successful women smashing glass ceilings and catapulting themselves beyond expectations are met with another restraint, the term #girlboss. We don’t refer to male counterparts as man boss and for good reason, it just doesn’t make sense. Because really, gender has nothing to do with it.
Jewellery designer and local success story doesn’t enjoy the term either. Speaking recently to Triple White Magazine she noted,
“I really hate the term #GirlBoss. You’re not a #GirlBoss, you’re just the Boss.”
Gendered language in the workplace, a space where women are already underrepresented, is incredibly problematic. Sure there’s quotas, targets and protocols, but the disdain for women is more covert. Lettered assaults are hurled with disregard and women take it for fear of being labelled sensitive, another gender binary we’ve been lumped with. Bossy, abrasive, emotional, qualifiers you would never hear uttered when talking about a man, and research agrees. That’s the problem. You won’t hear strong or tough used affectionately either, that is the man’s domain. Gendered qualifiers like lady boss or #girlboss aren’t affectionate or useful, instead of levelling the playing field it puts women on another pitch entirely.
Millennials in particular are done with gender norms, demonstrating a major attitude shift away from the moulds of male and female. In fact the research says the majority of millennials say gender doesn’t have a bearing on destiny or success. Gendered language is sexism with a unique subtlety, designed to go on unnoticed. But progressive companies know better, Google last year responded to a shareholder referring to their CFO as “the lady CFO” with a satirical take on the issue. They held a “Lady Day” where every cog as part of the mammoth enterprise working away at the search engine, renamed their titles with the prefix ‘lady’ for the day, to show just how infantile the offhand comment is. From “Lady Creative Engineer,” to” Lady Partner Technology Manager” the men got on board too, there was even a logo. A clapback with class.
The term itself #Girlboss was coined by Sophia Amoruso of Nasty Gal, a book deal and TV series weighting her new found female community of supporters. They celebrated her unique path to success and sought out her expertise, so they too could follow in her footsteps. Forums celebrating female success have enlivened women to take charge, Like Minded Bitches Drinking Wine is one stellar example. Headed up by ShowPony founder and startup success story Jane Lu, in partnership with Gen Gorge of Skilld, the Facebook group has grown well beyond a weekly wine catchup to an empire in it’s own right. But does that mean Jane, Gen or any of the other wonderful women in the group deserve to have their achievements measured on a ladies only leaderboard? Not a chance. #Girlboss misses the point.
Franziska Iseli another Aussie entrepreneur, made headlines when she noted a similar opinion in October. Isleli made the important point that because of gender qualifiers the term girl boss implies a level of ease or pretty process ignoring the hardwork and struggles along the way. As if women curtsy their way to the top rather than slog it out. Speaking to Fortune she said,
“It almost portrays a false image of what it means to be a leader, or a female entrepreneur; it makes it look easy… I think it’s important we celebrate women but also celebrate the ups and down…and [admit] we make mistakes,” she said.
And she’s not wrong. Just as we started to crack the glass ceiling it seems we’re not done, it’s like setting a bird soaring free from it’s cage, but the cage is still in the aviary.
Women are told they can have it all, but ‘all’ is not the same for every woman. Maybe your baby is your business, your career what you work on instead of dinner or maybe the other way around. That’s the beauty of choice, you do you sister. Gender qualifiers take away from the hard fought battles day in and day out. Perhaps that bossy exec was working above and beyond to achieve her targets? Maybe that abrasive manager was dealing with a delinquent employee with a firm hand? What if that emotional CFO was demonstrating her passion for her work? Being the boss is hard enough without being regarded differently thanks to your gender.
International Women’s Day is a chance to celebrate the triumphs of women and the battles still to be fought, but don’t worry gents Men’s Day is November 17th. That’s the beauty of a level playing field, we’re all equal. So go forth and wear the pants or don’t – it’s up to you.
Image source: HM.com, Reiss.