Relationships

Would You Call Someone a Girl Boss?

Oprah Winfrey

Last fall, I was meeting some female business owners for work drinks — Rony from Catbird, Lanie from Lovely Bride and Jacq from State Bags. As I was sending out the confirmation email, I wrote “Girl Bosses,” as the subject heading. And it looked ridiculous. These women are brilliant and run big brands with teams of employees. They’re decidedly women, not girls. I quickly deleted it.

So, the other day, I was curious to read a blog post titled Be a boss, not a #girlboss. The author, Anna Jordan, argued that the term “girl boss” is patronizing and sets women up in opposition to men.

The author’s husband, who runs a consulting firm, would jokingly call himself “Boy Boss” when he accomplished something at work. “But that self-declaration rings as a little silly, doesn’t it?” she pointed out. Here’s what she had to say:

My husband is a boy — but no one would ever call him a boy because he’s almost 33 years old — so actually he’s a man who runs his own business. No one is sitting around thinking this is nice or remarkable. He is simply the boss.

“Girl Boss” is not the phrase we should tout if we want to be powerful or successful. Female-run businesses are not adorable. Women don’t need to justify their abilities and intellect by making it cute.

In her book, We Should All Be Feminists, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie writes, “We teach girls to shrink themselves, to make themselves smaller. We say to girls, you can have ambition, but not too much. You should aim to be successful, but not too successful.” Today, we are telling girls — and adult women — that they can be the #Girlboss, but they can’t be “the boss.”

At first, I wondered if she was taking it too seriously. I mean, on the flip side, maybe the term “girl boss” is taking ownership of it, and rejoicing in being female, and creating a cool, empowering club of smart women that we are all invited to join? Emily Weiss (CEO of Glossier), Leandra Mendine (Founder of Man Repeller) and Maggie Winter (CEO of AYR) call themselves girl bosses. Sophia Amoruso wrote the book.

But the more I think about it, the more I find the term “girl boss” grating. It seems fine until you try it with any number of women. Is Oprah a girl boss? Is Hillary a girl boss? Is Sheryl Sandberg a girl boss? Is Tina Fey a girl boss? Is Ruth Bader Ginsburg a girl boss? It sounds absurd.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Thoughts? I’m so curious to hear what you think… (Loved this eulogy for “girl boss.”)

P.S. 15 career tips from smart women, and 10 lessons I’ve learned in my career.

  1. Sophie says...

    I hate this term, it’s childish and demeaning. I actually “unfollowed” someone on Instagram because they insisted on using this term (as well as for a whole host of other reasons actually, mostly her inherant sexism masquerading as female empowerment…..). Thanks for the link to the article and for this thought-provoking piece!

  2. maja says...

    The term girlboss stems from the very problem that feminism is all about; the fact that society rikes the male to be “the norm” and the female to be “the exception”. Best hip hop act vs. best female hip hop act. The NBA vs the Womens NBA. Etc etc etc in all eternity. It is not “just words”, it matters what we chose to call things. Words and terms carry meaning and importance.

    • maja says...

      *rules, not rikes! Don’t know what happened there.

  3. Reading the book totally justified the term GirlBoss for me. I know where you’re coming from not calling these fabulous ladies “girls”, but I believe Sophia Amoruso’s book was dedicated to the next generation of bosses in a field that has yet to be defined. With bloggers, social media strategists, branding experts – all jobs that didn’t exist when Oprah started out – the public notion about female leaders changed as well.

    To me, the term “girl” always had a negative vibe to it. When you think about it, there are several phrases as well: “Don’t be such a girl”, “You throw the ball like a girl”, “Don’t run like a girl”, “She’s such a girly girl”, etc.

    I think “GirlBoss” is taking ownership of the amazingness that comes with being a girl and later on a woman and all that comes with it – good, bad, obnoxious, hilarious and challenging.
    I am 33 and would feel delighted to hear that I am a GirlBoss, even though I am very much aware that I am a grown woman – but the one doesn’t negate the other or does it?!

  4. I don’t like it. In a similar vein, there’s a trend on twitter now to add the hashtag GirlGang to the end of a lot of tweets that illustrate a woman doing something worthwhile – whether she’s a blogger, has achieved something at work, whatever. It’s really taking off and so many people are using it, many in kind of a smug way as if to say ‘look at me, I’m a girl and I can do stuff!’ To me it just feels so juvenile and belittling. Women work just as hard as men and can achieve just as much (if not more, has anyone ever seen a man grow a human? ;) ) and to reduce ourselves to playground terms such as GirlBoss and GirlGang just feels like we’re trying to prove a point, but are doing so in a way that does more harm than good. Girls and women are awesome. We don’t need to add Girl to the beginning of everything we achieve to prove that.

    Charlotte xx
    Fox Socks

  5. Marianne Hoejaard says...

    Being a young, blonde woman I have been in several situations where male co-workers have thought of me as “cute” first and a hardworking employee second (and verbalized it in my present). In my opinion the term ‘Girl Boss’ only reinforces this. It’s adding fuel to the chauvinist fire.

  6. Girl boss is ridiculous . We’re grown women, not girls, it’s patronising and playgroundy. Why do we need to specify which gender is the boss? It’s like saying woman doctor (which the headline always gets wrong as it is a female doctor) or woman/female anything when if it is a man he is simply doctor, solicitor, boss. This is utter stupidity

  7. Tara says...

    Here in the UK, I notice they refer to women a lot as girls. There was recently a program on TV called ‘British Girl Soldiers’ which I found offensive. If there was one called ‘British Boy Soldiers,’ it would have actual children not men. My biggest problem though is not even in the term girl, it is that gender has to be specified. These women are just bosses,plain and simple. It is like when a chef that is amazing just happens to be female, she is usually referred to as an amazing female/woman/girl chef whereas her male counterpart would never be identified by his sex.

  8. Sam says...

    Disappointed that women feel #girlboss terminology as diminutive and (as it appears here) anti-feminist. Hashtags are a millennial communication channel. That title was coined in a fitting industry targeting a specific age demographic as both a business strategy and marketing brand with an ultimately positive message. It may not be linguistically correct with respect to age or (fine!) childhood gender socialization but I would hardly say it disenfranchises or disempowers anyone. I highly doubt Oprah would take offense at leaders who are decades her junior applauding her as the ultimate #girlboss. She would take that in stride as any, yes, true BOSS, would. The term itself is also reflective of the personal tastes of those who choose to use it – a freedom the feminist movement seeks to protect: for women to do whatever the hell they want to do without persecution, let alone from other women. The fact that we (Us. Ladies. Women. Gals. The predominant readers of this blog and any book written by and for women) are taking time to write articles and even comments (mine included) continue to prove the stereotype of female on female competition and quite frankly demonstrates (in the classically micro-aggressive manner of these 21st century times) why we still have a long way to go…

    • *mic drop* Thank YOU!

    • Jessica says...

      YES. Spot on. Thank you.

    • Mo says...

      OMG YESSS

  9. Jennie says...

    I distinctly remember walking by Sophia Amoruso’s book after it first hit the shelves, and seeing the title and thinking, “Why…?” Perhaps some women find the #girlboss thing empowering but, to me, frequently using the word “girl” referring to grown adults just adds to this weird infantilization of women we all seem to be a part of. So, I’m not a fan. In addition, does it really need to be differentiated if I’m a woman or a man? I’m your boss. Get to work.

  10. Chat says...

    Yeah it sucks. In my country “mompreneur” is also pretty widespread and it annoys me to the core. Also, during my master in finance days, I am thought of as a “working mom” when I’m just a professional in finance, no big whoop. Like can I be just me, not labelled as a mom/woman/girl anything??!!

    • Carolin says...

      This discussion is so interesting! Thank you for bringing the topic up as these words have become more and more popular in Germany too. For me especially mompreneur already seems to include an excuse: the job is my hobby/ if it goes wrong, I never said that I am a real entrepreneur etc. even though I know that the women using this term want to stress that they can do both – business and kids. Girl boss on the other had seems more powerful to me, or more fun? But in the end it seems that women are often simply afraid to be called “bossy” (thinking of the banbossy.com campaign by the girl scouts usa and sheryl sandberg).

  11. Leah says...

    “girl boss” is insanely patronizing, full stop

  12. I hate that term- I get it and I agree the message behind it is great but the whole image of #girlboss always makes me think of a caricature of woman bossing people around and spinning gum on her finger. It’s cutesy and takes away from the hard work real females are putting in.

  13. Anna says...

    Yes! I was watching the Australian Open (tennis) in January and it pissed me off that the (female!) commentator kept using “girls” to refer to the women whose game she was calling. Imagine them using “boys” to refer to Federer, Nadal or Djokovic. No way!

  14. Liz says...

    I have never used the term #girlboss nor can I think of a situation where I would call someone a girlboss. I have always thought of the term “#girlboss” as more of a movement: a verbalization of female empowerment & workplace equality. In that context I can see where the term has some meaning.

  15. Renee2250 says...

    Would I ever use it to describe another woman? Probably not. A friend or close coworker? Maybe. To me the term is best applied to young, post collegiate women who are hustling professionally and going after what they want. I’m only speaking for myself, but as someone in their early twenties, sometimes I still feel like a kid, a “girl,” I suppose. I’m trying to figure it all out, so I don’t find the “girl” component degrading. Overall, I regard girl boss as an encouraging phrase, sort of like “you go girl!” I wouldn’t call a ceo, director or manager a girl boss, because they are simply the boss.

  16. Tiffani Green says...

    I’ve bristled at the term since its inception for many of the reasons you mentioned. Also, I think there are some gendered connotations behind what makes a woman a girlboss versus a regular boss. I think there’s a reason why women in feminine careers-fashion bloggers, interior designers, cosmetics executives, etc, are often referred to as “girl bosses” and women who have made their mark in male dominated industries-tech, finance, politics-are strong, driven executives. It’s a way of diminishing things that are created by, and of primary interest to women. A female business owner has a right to refer to herself in whatever way she chooses, but in general, I find the term girl boss to be patronizing.

  17. Peg says...

    I’ve never heard of “girl boss” and it does sounds ridiculous and condescending. Glad you are discussing it though! ?

  18. Bailey says...

    I think it depends on the woman. I can see a younger entrepreneur with a bubbly personality calling herself “girl boss” as a celebration of her femininity. At the same time, you’re right — that makes no sense for Ruth Bader Ginsburg!

  19. Jessica C says...

    I’m not a fan of it. Reminds me of when I taught in Central America and the kids called the women professors “niña” (which means girl). It seemed so strange and frustrating to me – not to be called teacher or professor, but “girl.”

  20. Megan says...

    I’m frequently the only woman in the room in meetings with other executives, so I feel acutely aware that I’m in the minority in the workplace with my peers. I feel this term in my situation would make me feel inferior and the use of the term would be embarrassing if my male coworkers heard it. But I have friends that own their own businesses and use the term. I actually think it’s empowering to them and almost fitting. So in a way, the appropriateness of this term seems situational.

  21. Angela says...

    I don’t typically comment on discussions, but I found reading other opinions really interesting.

    So, to me, “girlboss” means empowerment. Its almost a nod to how women should be perceived as bosses originally; however, that isn’t the case. That being said, Boss or Girlboss, both terms should be interchangeable and encourage women in corporations.

  22. Katie says...

    I hate that term too!! I was trying to picture my friends parents saying be successful, but not too successful and I can’t even imagine it. All my girl friends are successful in their own right. I think it’s fun to know that in 2018 women will be more educated then men. So let’s take over now…

  23. Alice says...

    A boss is a boss. Do we say girl assistant, or girl writer?
    I wish we were in times where gender tags like that were absent. They should be unnecessary and irrelevant. I would never use the phrase.

    Also, I stopped being a girl in my teens. I am a woman. So are other adult females, no? I wouldn’t take offence at someone calling me a girl, but it would be really weird and incorrect.

  24. Samantha Russell says...

    I run sales & marketing for a website development and digital marketing tech startup for compliance based industries (primarily finance). our entire marketing team is made up of women (most of whom are in their 20s),while 75% of our clients are men. Even though I am very close with my team I am careful to address them as ” ladies” rather than “girls” if I’m addressing them all together. I’ve found most of our male clients do the same- interestingly enough it’s the female clients who will say things like ” hi girls” or ” you girls…” In meetings!

  25. I’ve never heard of the expression ‘girl boss’. It sounds a bit childish honestly.

    • WMom says...

      Same here. I had never heard the term before. A person in charge is just a boss.

  26. berta says...

    As I have gotten older, (40 y/o) I have come to despise the word girl when applied to women in any professional capacity or in the media. When referring to adults I prefer the use of men or women. I don’t dislike the term “girl boss” if that is how someone self-identifies. Although I would not use the term to describe myself (I owe my own business).

  27. Mo says...

    I recently became my own boss after getting laid off, and this journey has been undoubtedly both challenging and fulfilling. I don’t refer to myself as a #girlboss, but for other women who wish to adopt this moniker, the more power to them. If it empowers them in any way, I’d support it. Like many decisions we women make, wanting to be labeled as a #girlboss is a personal choice and should be respected as such. Isn’t this the point of feminism? Let girls be girls, let women be women.

    • I love this dialogue, and your comment Mo resonates with me. Feminism is about empowering each other! Every woman’s journey getting to empowerment will look different, and I am happy for the women who find their role as a #girlboss, just as I celebrate the many strong hard-working women who don’t identify that way. Let’s keep building each other up!

  28. Kaitlin says...

    I’m completely against it for the reasons that you mention. I’m curious, though, in your asking for our thoughts, whether you were looking for validation of your own belief, and whether that’s something that women tend to do more than men. We make ourselves small and we shrink back when asserting our opinions on something. Sometimes, this can be good, like when dealing with clients or stakeholders in a tactful way. But sometimes, it means that we’re making ourselves quieter when we actually need to be heard.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      i’m actually very curious about what people think. i was initially into the term and the more i thought about it, the more i didn’t like it. so i was wondering if people had strong thoughts one way or the other, and the comments have been so enlightening to me!

  29. Robin says...

    Totally agree! I have a two year old son and more and more I’m noticing these types of patterns in my language (and trying to fix them – harder than it seems!). Like referring to myself as a ‘girl’ but then my husband as a man. Why don’t I think of myself as a woman? I’m 36, a mom, I have a career. My husband is no more (or less) adult than I am.

    Other things I’m working on – trying not to use he/him/that man etc in situations where I don’t actually know the gender for sure (eg the driver of the train, random animals characters in books etc). I’m trying to use ‘grown-up’, kid, and other neutral terms – I know some people just go with feminizing but that feels strange too. Why do I need to gender everything? But still it is SO HARD to get away from.

    I’d love to see a post on language/talking to kids – are these kinds of habits something you are thinking about with Toby and Anton? What other changes are people trying to make to the way they speak around their kids? I find this sort of thing way harder (and more important) than not swearing!

    • Ashley says...

      Totally agree on it being more important than not swearing!

    • Brittany says...

      I agree! Why does everything need to have a gender?

  30. Jessica says...

    Yes! I’d never thought of it too much but I’m with you. Just boss.

  31. Especially for Sheryl. Let me assure you, day to day, in the office, she is not thinking, “I’m such a girl!” She is thinking, how could she not, “I am such a BOSS!” Just like a man.

    • CA says...

      Along these same lines, why would you call her “Sheryl”, and not “Sheryl Sandberg”, or “Sandberg”. She’s a businessperson and public figure, not your friend. Would you call Mark Zuckerberg “Mark”? I doubt it.

      Exceptions are those who have given themselves the famous person one-name treatment. Oprah is a perfect example of this. Cher. Madonna. They chose these for themselves.

  32. Fern says...

    Reading this article, I was actually taken aback that “girl boss” is a popular term; I’d never come across it before, except when I saw the cover of that book. Now, having not read that book, I didn’t know anything about it. I have had many female bosses and they are just “my boss” or “my manager” or “my supervisor”. I can imagine there might be some industries where a woman in a top role would be unusual — or even discouraged — but I guess I have it in my head that those are rare exceptions. Perhaps I live in a bubble? There are so many female business owners in Vancouver that perhaps I just take it for granted!

  33. Uhm, interesting, I have never questioned that phrase. I think maybe this term exists to enphasise the difficulty to be a boss and a woman at the same time, but… Nowadays be a boss and a woman or a men is the same difficult if you practice the gender equality in your life of course.

  34. I hate hate hate the term girl boss. It’s up there with “moist” “hustle” and “preggo.”

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      hahahaha. and “panties”!!

    • I hate “panties!”

    • Tristen Chang says...

      Uuuuuuuugh “preggo!”

    • Jessica says...

      Rachel, nothing makes me want to rage like the word “preggo.” Except maybe “wifey.”

    • Meggles says...

      Joanna, you hate the word ‘panties’? I’ve always hated it too. I detest the word ‘preggo’ as well.

      I agree asbout the term ‘girl bosses’. Women should just be bosses. It should be normal, and not unusual, for women to take on the role of bosses. Calling a woman a ‘girl boss’ makes it sound like an extraordinary thing, and it should not be extraordinary.

    • EW TO MOIST!!!

  35. Cait says...

    Totally agree with you! It might seem nit-picky, but reinforcing use of the word “girl” in the professional world, especially for successful, established women is not good. It’s not that there is something wrong with the word “girl” – but that word brings to mind someone under the age of 18, at least. It’s just not accurate. There doesn’t need to be a qualifier. A male is not a “boyboss” or a “manboss” – he’s just a boss. That’s how it should be for women.

  36. So funny – I read this article and wrote about it on my blog a week ago. I wasn’t going to publish it but after reading this I decided to go ahead and do it to share my thoughts. You can read them here: https://lvlhboho.com/2016/04/26/girlboss/

  37. Adelyn says...

    I strongly dislike “girl boss.” I work in tech in a male-dominated department and the last thing we need is yet another way to infantalize or otherwise put ourselves down. I already struggle daily (as do other women I know) with the idea that strong, opinionated women are being “b*tchy” or “aggressive” whereas my male counterparts are celebrated for the same qualities. No thank you.

  38. Might I argue that a lot of this criticism comes from an apparently inherent assumption our society has that adding “girl” to something makes it “cute”?

    quote: “Female-run businesses are not adorable. Women don’t need to justify their abilities and intellect by making it cute.” — nowhere in the phrase “Girl Boss” are there any descriptive words beyond girl…female. But it’s interesting to see how just the word “girl” comes with all these assumptions about cutesyness and being adorable.

    I like Girl Boss. I agree that “The Boss” is just fine too, and there’s something to be said about not feeling the need to differentiate. But I think Girl Boss has an empowering element to its usage–using it in reference to the Oprah’s and Hillary’s chips away at the idea that anything “Girl” must be cute and frivolous.

    No, the endeavors of Oprah, Hillary, et. al are not “cute”, they’re powerful. They’re Boss. At the same time as being Girl.

    Get over it. ;)

    http://oprahismyreligion.wordpress.com

    • Leslie says...

      Girl and boy both have juvenile connotations. Doctors say “it’s a girl” “it’s a boy” not “it’s a man.” Inherently juvenile things are cutesy and as she argues the cutesieness diminishes the power behind the term “boss.” #girlboss is a term used to make female power palatable and blatantly demonstrates societies arrested development of womanhood. For some women cuteness might be empowering for others it seems limiting and oppressive. I am of the latter train of thought.

    • Ashley says...

      I tend to agree with you. More simply, as a woman and a millennial who is a boss, I like following the hashtag on IG to commiserate/relate/be inspired by other women who are experiencing the same challenges as me. Just like most of my friends my age use “Girl’s Night Out” or “Girl’s Trip” to denote our special time together, I find #girlboss to be like a special club in the same way.

    • bisbee says...

      Calling a grown woman a girl is not empowering. Is calling a grown man a boy empowering? No. Neither term is empowering. Neither term should be used in a business setting.

  39. Lauren says...

    AGREE! It is belittling. I have the same problem with schools that call the women’s team Mascot-ettes. I’m a physician and cringe when people call me a “Lady Doctor.”

    • Char says...

      I call my gyno my Lady Doctor… As in doctor for ladies. I call my family doctor my doctor.

    • Christina says...

      Ugh! “Lady-profession” is my biggest pet peeve!! Lady-ref. Lady-biker! I don’t call you Lady-accountant do I??

  40. Your site always has the most interesting discussions. I’ve never loved the term, but I’m ok with other people using it if they really feel it’s empowering or something. I definitely try to avoid calling women “girls” in the workplace and use their names instead.

  41. I hate the phrase and would only ever use it as an ironic insult when someone (like an unruly toddler) is behaving badly. “Throwing the silly cup and screaming. #girlboss” If anyone used it to refer to me I would do my best to sift through my disgust for the phrase to appreciate their intention but ugh. I definitely fist-pumped in my heart while reading this post and the blog post you mentioned.

  42. Camille says...

    AMEN! I hadn’t put much thought into the term, but totally agree with your sentiments.

    Recently I was called “Mrs. Manager” and also found that incredibly offensive.

  43. Sarah says...

    I feel like we’re still struggling to be in charge while still being considered feminine, and I feel like that is where the term originates. It’s like saying oh look I’m a bad ass who gets it done but I’m still girly and feminine. In an ideal world, a person can be the boss regardless of whether she displays traditional “feminine” attributes! But I feel Girlboss exists to encourage women who might not aspire to being in charge or to greater success because of a feeling of it being less ladylike or feminine. Like others, I can’t imagine calling my actual boss or any other woman in charge a Girlboss but I have a dear dear friend who is finishing her PhD and trying to buy a house at the same time on her own and so I might affectionately call her a girlboss to let her know how proud I am of her for being such a badass :)

  44. Emily says...

    I absolutely agree! I was so unhappy with the “girl boss” fad, it felt very belittling. I’m happy to hear some people speaking up to oppose it.

  45. Mary H. says...

    I hardly ever comment but wow, I can’t even believe this term is used or that we are discussing it! Why on earth should we qualify the term boss with “girl”?! A boss is a boss is a boss!

  46. Laurel says...

    Finally!!!! Why would we want to carry on the notion that women are only good/worthy if we are young or acting young, why do we need to sexualize the truly young girls by trying to make ourselves young girls? We are WOMEN. LADIES. PEOPLE.

  47. GJ says...

    I’m worried I’ll open a can of worms with this, but I’ve always disliked the phrase “girl boss” and now openly detest it now that it has become the banner of direct sales businesses.

    No, selling mediocre “miracle” products from home is not a remarkable accomplishment – I’ll see you as a “boss” when you have a leadership position in or own a sizable business (aka employ people) of some substance.

    • I could not agree with you more. Yes, yes and yes.

  48. Yes! Yes! Yes! It is so ridiculous. Just be The Boss.
    After reading boss so many times it sounds ridiculous now.
    Boss.

  49. Shannon says...

    I find it annoying and something like trendy for the sake of social media. I think it does put a cute and not so serious connotation on women leaders. Be a boss regardless of your gender. Be confident regardless of your gender. Be a great leader and stand up for what you believe in regardless of your gender.

  50. Lais Cobra says...

    Hey, interesting points!
    Before reading this I thought the expression was nice and inspiring because it felt like something we are doing together: going from ” only male” bosses to having female bosses a nd learning from early in our careers our goal can be to “be a boss” someday.
    If the point of reference is “bosses in general or comparing ourselves to big names like Oprah it does sound ridiculous. Pathetic even.
    So, to me, both arguments are valid, what changes is the circunstances you are using it!

  51. I had a similar response after reading ‘The Girl on the Train.’ Something about the title (given that the protagonist is a woman in her 30s) didn’t sit well with me, so I started asking questions. Now I make a point not use the word “girl” so loosely because to call a woman a girl is to suggest that she is silly and immature and can’t be taken seriously. You can read my response to ‘The Girl on the Train’ here if you like: http://www.thisoffscriptlife.com/winter-2016-inspirations/

    • Kristina says...

      Yes! I couldn’t agree more on your thoughts about “Girl on the Train” and “Gone Girl” – I, too, expected the plot to be about a teenager. So: Boss or no boss, on a train or already gone – referring to a woman in her 30ies as a “girl”?! I find that odd to say the least. xx

    • Anna says...

      I agree with you. I don’t necessarily think that titling books with Girl was initially deliberate but it’s gone overboard now. Somehow someone figured out that having Girl in the title would sell more copies. I was okay with Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (the Swedish title is actually Men Who Hate Women) and Gone Girl. But Girl on the Train and all the subsequent ones seem to pander to those who crave un-nuanced banality.

      As for girlboss, I’m assuming the title was spawned for mass appeal. Like many others, I prefer just boss.

  52. Caitlin says...

    THANK YOU for posting this. I have taken issue with the term “girl boss” since the book came out, as I think it points out the gap between men and women yet again. Same thing when people at my company refer to a “female executive.” ……..how about just “executive?” Nobody is calling men “male executives.” I can think of a million parallel examples (including “male nurse,” which implies nursing is women’s work) and it drives me nuts. I am in management in a male-dominated industry and have been called “girl boss” before and I don’t find it empowering; it’s offensive and patronizing every time.

  53. Trish O says...

    And another thing…. It really bugs me when they call women’s sports teams the lady (insert team mascot here). So the men’s basket ball team is the Redbirds, say. And the women’s team is the Lady Redbirds. Really?!?! That just implies that the men’s team is the really team and the women’s team is some lesser other thing. Why can’t we all just be Redbirds? Hate that.

    • Yes.

  54. BV says...

    I’m glad I’ve never heard this because it means I’m surrounding myself with the right people at work and in life. Finance is overwhelmingly dominated by white males, especially in the upper echelons. And there used to be a history of incredibly sexist/misogynistic behavior towards any female employees. So I’m impressed I have never heard this term. “girl” anything is ridiculous, but especially “girl boss”. I’m pretty sure if someone sent me a work email titled “girl bosses”, that would be the end of that professional relationship.

  55. Audrey says...

    One strong vote against the term girl boss or lady boss! It is so unserious sounding as to completely undermine all the authority and respect one would want as a boss. Wear a quirky brooch to show your sense of fun, paint an edgy accent nail, but for the love of God please don’t call yourself a girlboss.

  56. Trish O says...

    I did not know the term “girl boss” was a thing. I think a few things, it is one thing to call your self a girl boss but I would never call someone else a girl boss. If I feel like that is a good name for me, that is empowering. If I call someone else that, I think that is demeaning. Anyway, just my gut feeling. I am 44 years old, I am not a girl and would never refer to myself as such.

  57. I don’t like the word girl applied to adult women at all, especially in circumstances like to qualify the word boss as if that isn’t enough on its own. I am SO much happier, smarter, better at all things in life as a woman than I ever was as a girl. The two are not synonyms and should not be used as such.

  58. Nicky says...

    I do think #girlboss sounds childish and I wouldn’t use it, but I can see what they were trying to do with it. I think sometimes it’s hard to know exactly what is right when it comes to language or being mindful of feminism in general. I work in tech and I see it all the time. Just because I was put in this position since was born a woman, doesn’t mean that I need to have a solution ready right away. Creating a dialog seems to be working though and I am glad we are talking about it.

  59. t says...

    To me the term Girl Boss has connotations of being a successful woman in a field that has historically been associated with femininity. And I am OK with that.

    You take fashion, makeup, blogging, jewelry lines, weddings, etc and you OWN THEM LIKE A BOSS. to me that is a girl boss. if you are comfortable with that connotation then use it.

  60. Cara says...

    YES!! I literally just wrote the following to my two close girlfriends on a group text…

    “Is it just me or does the term ‘lady boss or girl boss’ drive anyone else crazy. I am a boss. I am an entrepreneur. I get sh*t done on a daily basis and it isn’t dependent on my gender.”

    We (society) would never refer to a man as a man boss or dude boss. I don’t understand why this term has become so popular lately. I also feel like its a slap in the face to all the strong women that came before us that helped paved the way for equality in the workforce.

  61. Elise says...

    I wouldn’t say I’m bothered by the phrase “girl boss” but I definitely don’t think it does anything for feminism. No male boss would refer to himself as a “boy boss” or even a “man boss.” Girl power is great and all, but I feel like the term “girl boss” makes it seem like we have something to prove as women in the workplace. And we don’t. Dropping the gender label feels much more empowering and does more to promote women as equal to men. Just my $0.02. ;)

  62. Jessica says...

    I’m a member of a 50,000 member facebook group of female, mom, physicians and people often say “like a boss” or #likeaboss when doing well at work or doing a good job of balancing things and even that irritates me. We aren’t ‘like’ a boss we are a boss. We are doing our many jobs, wearing our many hats, balancing our many roles. To me, like a boss implies like a male boss. I certainly can’t tolerate #girlboss.

  63. Nope, nope, nope. “Girl Boss” or “girlboss” or “#girlboss” all look really petty and patronizing unless the boss in question was 9 or 10 years old. Then, MAYBE. Otherwise. No.

    xox

  64. Jessica says...

    I HATE the term “girl boss” for all the reasons you outline. It’s also cutesy and infantilizing, as so many commenters have pointed out. It always makes me think of the baby talk episode of 30 Rock.

  65. I think to truly be feminist we need to accept as a society that their are no jobs that are either girl or boy. Saying girl boss makes it seem remarkable that a girl can be a boss just like saying male nurse makes it seem like men should not be nurses. My rule of thumb, if you are tempted to explain the antistereotype in your description but wouldn’t bother with the explanation if the person were another gender, race, etc. ditch the description. You’re a boss, you just happen to also be a girl.

    • I love the example of male nurse! It made me think. I played basketball in college, so I ALWAYS say, “I was on the Bucknell Women’s basketball team.” Yet, I’m sure all the former men’s basketball players say, “I was on the Bucknell basketball team.” I think, from now on, I’m going to drop the “Women’s” – why not?!

  66. Jenn says...

    Yes! I hate this! This reminds me of a really interesting discussion I heard on NPR (WBEZ) maybe a year or two ago. The woman talked about the colloquial term for men in a casual setting is “guys” but the equivalent term for a group of women, is “girls”…and the importance of the two not being opposites. “Guys” still infers men, adults, whereas a group of women together (“girls”) are… children.

    Sometimes I still might refer to me and my group of female friends as “girls” or my partner might say he’s getting together with the “boys”…but it’s personal in that respect and there is an affection to it. But it truly bothers me in certain situations, PARTICULARLY at work.

    I was recently an all company meeting and they talked about how how they might build out teams moving forward, but they KEPT referring to the female members as girls…”we were going to assign client ABC to Steve, but we think it might be better to put them with a girl”. It sounded so absurd. I wanted to yell out, this client wants to a CHILD project manager?

    • Twyla says...

      What about “my ladies”?

  67. Agree with ALL of these things. Why constrain myself just in the #girlboss bucket when I’m, frankly, a boss? I hated the term when the book first came out, and I hate it now. #justaboss

  68. Jessica says...

    I HATE everything about the term “girl boss.” It’s cutesy and infantilizing. It always makes me think of the baby talk episode of 30 Rock.

  69. I’m a freelance writer/editor. One of my bosses (male, in his 70s) at a media company I do work for sent me an email asking if I had done something. I replied that I had. His response? “Good girl.” Oh, it made me cringe.

  70. Andrea B. says...

    I completely understand your perspective (and that of many readers above!) about how the term seems to devalue, or at least qualify, what it means to be a woman in power. As a 26 year old corporate attorney, I definitely struggle with how my youth and femininity are perceived by my mostly male co-workers and superiors.

    However, I would challenge the idea that tacking on the world “girl” diminishes our accomplishments or makes us seem “less than” our male counterparts who hold titles without any qualifiers. Eve Ensler gave a beautiful Ted Talk some time ago about embracing our inner girl, how there is so much strength, both personally and professionally, in the qualities we typically associate with girls. It really resonated with me when I watched it a few years ago and has obviously stuck with me over time: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YhG1Bgbsj2w

    So while I’m not sure I’d refer to myself as a “girlboss” in a professional setting, I would offer that there is something empowering about embracing girlhood, or at least those traits we ascribe to young girls, even as professional women kicking ass in our chosen fields :)

    • Laura says...

      Agreed!

  71. Tristen Chang says...

    It’s so diminutive. But, (strangely?) as a woman who runs a small business, I am 100% down with the term #bosslady. I don’t know why, but that sounds so much more authoritative. And, I DO think there’s something empowering about recognizing the women who are going against the grain and seizing lives that were previously unavailable to them. High five, #bossladies!

  72. Emilie says...

    I understand the struggle here, Joanna, and you articulated it well. While it sounds too simple to say “pick your battles,” when I consider the fights I want to focus my feminist energy on, pushing for women like Hillary and Oprah to receive an appropriate power title of “boss” rather than “#girlboss” doesn’t rank high on my list; a laudable goal, sure, but not the most pressing issue. However, when I think of it in a bit of a broader context, it strikes me that it may be more important than it seems at first blush. Why are there repetitive instances in popular culture and the media where women are infantilized? It only serves to equate female qualities with those of children; emotional, weak, in need of protection, not to be taken too seriously, etc. I appreciate you pointing out in this post how absurd it is to do the same thing in the male context. Aside from the fact that women in positions of power and influence are bosses in their own right, I am all for the ousting of #girlboss, unless we all agree to bring in #boyboss as use it when referring to men in powerful roles.

    Kidding. Bye #girlboss.

  73. naomi says...

    I feel the same way about “mompreneur”…why aren’t women who are also moms just entrepreneurs?

    • Mary says...

      Yes!

  74. meganleiann says...

    I absolutely agree that it is unnecessary to designate a gender when speaking of authority. However, as to the delineation between girl and woman, I suspect that we as women will stop calling ourselves “girls” when we cease trying to look as though we are in our 20’s for decades.

  75. Kerry says...

    “Girl boss”?? I’ve never even heard the term.

    It’s patronizing at best, infantilizing at worst.

    No. Just, no.

    Just plain old: #boss

  76. Barb says...

    I don’t even call young women girls anymore. It sounds ridiculous and frankly, a little gross. Women. Woman. Girl. Female. These are words that mean something and should be used appropriately. I don’t want anyone to call me a girl, let alone a girl boss.

  77. Margaux LeBuffe says...

    I too struggle with this term and share the same conflicting views on it. As a 25 year old living and working in new york city, I strive to be a boss one day, and yes, I am a female. But do I strive to be a #girlboss? no! Just a boss. When I think about my mentors and bosses over the years, I share the same sentiments as you that when thinking about them as #girlbosses, it sounds degrading! but, we my friends and I have used the term before, and it’s always in an uplifting or empowering context. we also throw around the term “bossbitch”, always in an uplifting or a “she’s a bossbitch” – in an admiring or striving to be her-type way.

    Also, totally recognized Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s quote from Beyonce’s flawless. Beyonce is defnitely a boss – would be curious of her take on this!

    all in all, I am not sure where I stand. Do I think we (females) should strive to be bosses in our own way and avoid the term “girlboss”, “bossbitch” because it calls us out and degrades us? OR, do we embrace the term to recognize that we are in fact female, and that inherently makes us at a disadvantage to our male counterparts, and brings us closer together as a unit?

  78. Interesting point. I’ve got 2 girls. They are 4 & 5 1/2. They see me as a girl and Daddy is a boy.
    If I were to call myself a “girlboss” in front of them, I can only imagine it would add power to their term girl. Add possibility.
    So, I’d be honored for anyone to call me a girlboss, my girls especially.
    Yes! I am a girl. And Yes! I am the boss of this great life!
    Owning it…

  79. SO on-board with you on this, Joanna. every word of it. xx

  80. Suzanne says...

    I’m with you on the absurdity of the phrase, Joanna. As a judge and the mother of two smart, strong-willed girls, the last thing I’d want them to hear me referred to as is a “girl judge”. Nor would I want them to ever think it’s acceptable to call Hillary a “girl president” when she gets elected. Women achieve great things because of the content of their character and the sooner we can move the conversation away from irrelevant and diminishing labels, the better for all of us, but especially for young women.

  81. Hi C.O.J,
    It’s like everything else: “girl crush”, “manbun”, “bromance” … why can’t it just be crush, bun, and romance? The same goes for “girlboss.” Isn’t it obvious? Don’t we want to teach our next generations that buns don’t belong JUST to females? Can a straight girl just have a regular crush on another woman and not have to label it a “girlcrush”? Of course.
    I am a very recent convert of this way of speaking. I think it’s so important to rid those gender labels from our vocabularies and colloquialisms.
    Laura

    • Veronica says...

      These terms, however, mean distinct things from their counterparts. A girl crush means that a woman admires another woman in a non-romantic way. A man bun is not styled the same as a typical, ballerina-like bun, and a bromance implies mutual admiration and extreme friendship between men, but without any overt sexual attraction. I have no problem with coining terms for things that do not yet have a name. It’s that boss is already sufficient to describe the role that a female supervisor plays. That’s my issue. Girl boss is derogatory because it implies that women do something different than men when they are in leadership roles.

  82. Sometimes I assist for my good photographer friends on photo and film shoots. Even though they’re my equals, for that day they are paying me, they are my boss.

    “Where do you want this light, boss?” I ask. “Hey boss, want a coffee?” “Don’t worry, I got it, boss.”

    Even though we are equals, I think it changes the tone of the entire shoot. They feel more respected. They ARE the boss! And when they call me boss on my shoots, I feel like one, too. I don’t think it would work the same way if I called them “girl boss” in front of the client.

  83. SV says...

    Not a fan of the term and not a fan of the person who started it. As a woman working in entertainment, I am constantly chipped away at every day for my gender… I’d rather not add to it by calling myself something so juvenile.

  84. yael steren says...

    I never really thought about this until I read your post, but I have to say I agree. Why does it have to be a girl boss? I feel like “girl” boss almost makes it seem like a joke or not to be taken seriously. Hmm – interesting! Thanks for sharing this post today! I’m going to be asking my friends what they think – I’m curious to hear their responses! xx yael

    http://www.yaelsteren.com/blog/

  85. Fay says...

    Come to think of it… to the best of my knowledge, we really don’t use many female terms related to the professions here in the UK. Certainly wouldn’t hear terms like ‘lady doctor’, ‘lady vicar’, ‘lady vet’ etc etc in common use now – it would seem incredibly old fashioned. And its much more common that we’d hear ‘firefighter’ etc instead of the more traditional ‘fireman’. Still so far to go to break down the professional gender divide over here (where women still earn on average 20% less than men for equivalent roles; outrageous) but perhaps we’re heading in the right direction.

  86. Claire says...

    If I were a boss and call myself/was called a “girl boss” I’d be irate. I think “girl” is insulting for anyone out of middle school. Then, as “girl” is often used in a less than flattering sense in the professional world, when coupled with “boss” it reads plain old insulting. So no, I’m definitely against “girl boss.” Just call someone boss/manager/owner/CEO. Call them by their title, not some modifier for it. To me, the fact that this needs to be a question screams the need for further attention to feminism and workplace gender disparities.

  87. Gabriella says...

    I agree with you. I know they may not always be intended as serious, but I’ve grown tired of all these ways of setting women up in opposition to men that are supposed to “empowering,” all these cutesy lady-isms and, to some degree, the really strident assertions of female bossdom as well. It should be pretty obvious that women can be bosses–and very effective ones–without qualification and embellishment, understatement or overstatement.

  88. I run a non-profit, so does my boyfriend. On many levels I just see us as equal, but there’s still that part where it’s slightly different. As women, we have more challenges; they’re social, political, and even just in our appearance. We should recognize that. I’m not a girl though, as I don’t want to be treated as a child.

  89. Elise says...

    Hi Joanna, in Dutch we say: nagel op de kop! I have no idea how you say that in English but it means something like “you are absolutely right”. Sometimes, I do like to shout out I’m still a girl (not by age). It’s the Beyoncé-ness hidden inside me, I guess… “Who run the world? Girls!”

  90. Tricia S says...

    I hate the term boss in general. I believe someone leading a company or organization should not be referred to as a boss, but a leader. Someone who leads with humility, putting their employees first. I believe John Wooden, the greatest coach in the history of sports spoke about this very topic in every book he ever wrote. He never considered himself a coach, but a teacher. This is how I run my business.

    • Tricia S says...

      Although, I do tease my girls when they do something amazing…I always say to them #likeaboss

  91. Laura says...

    I don’t know.. I’ve felt that #girlboss was always meant to be empowering, and I don’t think anyone would doubt on taking Sophia Amoruso seriously. The way I see it, it’s not meant to mean a person isn’t a boss, but more so applauding the fact that it’s a woman taking charge. I’d more comfortably call Tiny Fey a girl boss than a boss lady within a familiar convo with my friends, but within the professional realm, yes, a boss is a boss is boss. For context, I will say I’m a 23-year-old interested in the trends of Nasty Gal and such. I think it’s great that brands with such influence choose to concentrate on issues like this. Online lingo strives so much more towards trends so the fact that there’s a term like this at all is more progressive than not, in my opinion.

    I will say that there’s more power behind the phrase “Beyonce is a boss,” rather than “Beyonce is a girl boss,” and no, I don’t mean that because girl is meant to imply anything negative, but because the word “boss” isn’t being attributed to another term and stands on its own. I think it all depends on the context of when and how “girl boss” used.

  92. Roopika Malhotra says...

    I hate the term “GirlBoss.” It feels so juvenile and amateur hour. I work for a self-made female CEO of a cosmetics company worth millions of dollars. I would never dream of calling her a “Girl Boss.” She’s a smart, savvy, inspiring, hard-working businesswoman and entrepreneur many men look up to. As a song my four-year-old daughter learned from Doc McStuffins goes, “She’s not bossy,,,she’s The Boss.”

  93. jeannie says...

    definitely not “girl boss.” a boss is a boss. period. (BTW, really good post.)

  94. HJM says...

    Not a fan of “girl boss” it just sounds cheesy and as one commenter stated above that it is infantilizing in the workplace. I do use the word girls when talking about my friends that are women though… girlfriend, girl’s night, girl gang. Not sure why that is, though!

    But at work? Boss is just fine.

  95. Fay says...

    I’m from the UK, and had no idea what this article was about at first- as far as I’m aware it’s not a term ever used here. Thank goodness! Of course we have plenty of other frustratingly demeaning terms for women’s roles or items (chick lit, anyone? Grrr) but if you’re the boss- you’re the boss! End of. I’m a director in a company and frankly, I’d be enraged if I heard this term in reference to me…

  96. Samantha Mills says...

    I think this goes beyond the delineation between girl and woman. I think there’s another issue at play with us women being “boss”. Too many people connotate a woman being a “boss” as a woman being “bossy”. That’s a fundamental issue I’ve encountered and I know many other women have also.

    • Lisa Park says...

      Agreed 100%. This is so true. While I think girl is extremely patronizing, the stigma with boss / bossy is even worse. A male coworker stands up in a meeting and announces a decision, he is seen as a boss. A female stands up in a meeting and announces a decision, she is seen as bossy.

  97. beth says...

    I find it grating and insulting. Especially the word Girl. I’m a woman, thank you, very much. But I’ve earned the title of Boss through hard work, and I don’t want to be separated out by my gender.

  98. Just my 2 cents worth: I think it’s a cute term (like “girlfriend”) and there is no need to read too much into it. Girl boss, lady boss, boss, mrs boss, miss boss! What matters is the achievement at the end of the day :)

    • Jo says...

      I agree with you Jasmine! I don’t have a problem with the term, but I feel like it’s being made into something different than originally intended. I am a 30 year old woman, who has run her own business, and I have used the term endearingly for encouragement to younger women who are “bosses in the making” when they do something that is empowering. I would never say #girlboss to my superior, but to a younger woman who is working towards being her own boss someday, I believe the intention is to applaud life victories that are #likeaboss.

  99. Lydia says...

    As a senior at Bryn Mawr College, one of the smaller issues I have dealt with is the reference to this empowering institution as a ‘girl’s school’. After completing four years of intense academic work and earning my degree, I am not okay with being referred to as a ‘girl’. I am looking forward to a long career in the professional world and am no longer okay with being referred to as a girl. I have come a long way and will go a lot further, but I will do so as a woman.

  100. Laura says...

    I’ve never heard this term before, but for me it’s one gigantic leap backwards for women. Why would my gender have any place in my job classification? To me, “girl boss” is just as insulting as John Kasich referring to a colleague as a “lady attorney”. It’s so, so, so, so wrong. If you’re going to be the boss, be the mother ‘effing boss! #yass :)

  101. I like lady boss.

    I also use lady as a prefix for everything though. I am part of my lady gang, these are my lady friends. I am a lady economist, who boxes with her lady boxing friends and then goes for lady drinks. Instead of pointing out the object as female, it creates a subject space that includes all women as a network that supports each other. This is for us by us.

    C

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      love that take on it.

    • Sadie says...

      I like this take. Maybe #girlboss just only works in context, and that context is, people you are close to. I mean, what if young men said #broboss to each other? That seems at least plausible. Sometimes people refer to each other in “diminutive” ways as a form of affection, not as actually trying to be smaller.

  102. Anaclara says...

    I agree– that’s a terribly demeaning term. Women get referred to as “girls” so often (take the show ‘Girls’, for example!). Never be smaller than you are, women!

  103. Katrin says...

    Thank you so much for this post – “girl boss” gives off a vibe of “I’m a boss, but I try to not scare anyone” – ugh!
    The term “girl” is also used by some of my favourite bloggers – The Fug Girls, Girl’s Gone Child, Mighty Girl, Alex the Girl. All of them are women in their 30s and 40s. Please, ladies. You’re WOMEN!

  104. Roxana says...

    I am a stay-at-home mom. I think of myself as a feminist. But, I hold views with respect to men’s and women’s rolls (in relationship to each other; e.g. marriage) that many might view as decidedly unfeminist. I could get into details, but won’t. I’ll just say that after much thought, I don’t find logical inconsistencies in my views (although, granted, most people would say, or should say, that their views are logically consistent :). Either way, many would not view me as a “feminist” as it is usually understood in our culture.

    I say all this by way of preface and to give context to my thoughts on this: The term “girl boss” is very grating to me. It actually makes me kind of angry. It definitely feels patronizing and stunting and a whole slew of other gross and as you say, absurd, things. If it helps, I don’t hold the same views a Ruth Bader Ginsburg AT ALL, but calling her or someone like her a “girl boss” is revolting.

    I do have a sense of humor, though, so if a woman is calling herself a “girl boss” like Leandra Mendrine might be, then she probably means it with a sense of irony. But it would be for her to call herself that, not someone else.

    As an aside, I was reading an interview with my latest celebrity crush. A 39 year old man, or male, I should say. He was talking about how his celebrity had given him greater “success with girls.” “Girls??” Needless to say, I was turned-off. If you refer to women as “girls,” you have a problem.

    Either way, great post! Thank you!

  105. anne says...

    typo: leandra medine, not mendrine. (i’m a copyeditor, can’t help it. :) )

    your thoughts on this are so interesting. i think saying GIRLBOSS can just simply be some women’s way of owning being a boss. plain and simple. it’s like saying, i’m a woman AND i’m a boss and i ruuule! and maybe, since female bosses are a recently common (maybe ‘common’ isn’t quite accurate, but i’m using it anyway!) thing, it could be a way of really putting both your femaleness and your bossdom out there. it’s true, though, that it doesn’t feel quite right for women who are in their 30s and up who are the boss of their own companies, teams, etc., and personally, i’d never refer to ANYONE as a girlboss. still, i love that man repeller and into the gloss own their girlbossdom by calling themselves by that term. i think it speaks to their modern feminist personalities more than anything. XO.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      really good points! (and thank you!)

    • I totally agree! Love this take on it. I think the term implies the idea that a woman can feminine and “girly” and still be a boss. It’s such a cliche that for a woman to succeed in the corporate world, she has to quash her femininity and conform to male standards (playing golf, drinking whiskey etc) and I love that girl boss is rejecting that paradigm.

  106. Loribeth says...

    I personally choose not to use the term but I don’t mind calling a close friend a lady boss once in a while. But when I use that term, I’m not describing a job position, I’m more complimenting a certain attitude or fierceness.

  107. jill c says...

    i completely agree with your post…and the point that maybe the term is better used for younger girls that need to feel empowered.

  108. deanna says...

    girl boss irks me to no end! AMEN! can we also discuss this #bossbabe business, which seems to be especially popular among the MLM crowd? just be a boss, the end.

  109. Jessica says...

    Read the book and listen to the podcast, I enjoy both, but it wouldn’t occur to me to use the term in reference to a person. Doesn’t bother me much though. Not everyone feels empowered by the same things and that’s okay.

  110. Desiree says...

    “girl boss” is patronizing and dumb. Boss suits women and girls much more. :)

  111. I think it’s fine if a woman wants to call herself “girl boss” and I’ve always read it as sort of a tongue-in-cheek jab at those who think that women shouldn’t run a business. Sort of like, “Look, even this chick with painted nails and funky hair can be in charge. Who woulda thunk?” I don’t think anyone should call another woman a “girl boss,” unless she’s running the elementary school store, etc.

  112. Lauren E. says...

    The company I work for is completely dominated by men, and when I think of myself climbing the ranks and then referring to myself as a “girl boss” it sounds ridiculous. I don’t ever want to be referred to with some kind of asterisk after my title. Sure, I’m a girl! But in a professional setting, I think I just want to be the boss.

  113. Mary says...

    Gosh, this term has irked me since whenever I heard it first! Yes, pleeeeeeeeeeease be done with it. You can be an empowered women and be a stay at home mother, you can have any job or even no job at all! Be who you want to be, not just what society thinks you should be. A job you love is the aim, not the value society places on it. I’m so tired of people saying CEOs, astronauts, engineers etc are the empowered women. Follow your heart in life, not someone else’s ideas/prescriptions. Then you truly will be empowered.

  114. Girl boss is something I’ve never even heard of! I don’t know, I do I kinda cringe when I hear it though…maybe because I’m in my twenties and it just already feels like a struggle to have the world view me as an adult and have my voice heard. Honestly though the most common term I hear and sometimes apply to myself and others is ‘Boss Lady’. Yeah, I kinda like that. It’s has a certain edge to it.

    I get women thinking that the ‘labeling’ is absurd and sexist. Men don’t label themselves, why should we? But in a way, I do find it empowering. In a modern day where women are still fighting for their rights and fighting to be heard/respected, why shouldn’t we label our movement? Why shouldn’t we take pride that we are breaking ceilings and taking ownership of it?? Why should we feel funny? We’re taking charge of ourselves…if anyone should feel funny it’s those that don’t support us and support change in the culture. So yeah, I’m sticking with Boss Lady. ;D

    Great topic! I’m all fired up now!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      Yes, I hear you. I have mixed feelings about the term, and I really like your thought process here.

    • Olma says...

      Yes, but does using the term Girl Boss or Boss Lady mean that we are breaking less ceilings is the true question?

  115. wkwr says...

    I’ve been thinking the same thing! One of the other reasons I dislike it is because it puts the emphasis on our sex first, and our accomplishment second.

  116. Emily R says...

    First, I think if you want to differentiate between men and women bosses it should be Lady Boss, not Girl Boss.

    Secondly, I think it’s fine within friends – but not very appropriate when talking professionally. You’re a boss! Who cares what your gender is?

  117. I’ve never heard of this phrase and am frankly a bit confused about why it exists. Just boss, thanks very much.

    I feel similarly about “happy wife/happy life” (is the other spouse’s happiness not important?!), “male nurse,” and “lady doctor.”

  118. Patricia says...

    Girl doctor, girl lawyer, girl journalist, girl firefighter? Um, no. No to the equally ridiculous girl boss.

  119. Elzbietasgd says...

    I’m a feminist & have always liked to use the term ‘Boss Lady.’ Would never say girl boss or lady boss. It’s Boss Lady…

  120. I think it stems from the idea that men are people and women are somehow other. I find the term totally grating. There’s this idea that I run into all the time that men’s work is real work and women’s work is extra. My husband is an attorney. A really good one. He’s well-respected, successful, his colleagues and clients all consider him to be intelligent and fair. He gets accolades for his work all the time. I have a full time job that is not as prominent but pays well and gives me a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment. I run into people who assume that my husband isn’t successful because if he was, I would obviously be a stay at home mom. We have actually had people turn down his services because I work! My money is considered superfluous! My job provides almost half of our income because (shockingly) women can actually make a real salary too. I also have much better benefits than he does, and I like knowing I can take care of my family if something happens to him, and we can retire much earlier with two 401(k)s. I have a real job, with real responsibility, and I do it for a number of reasons. I’m not a “girl boss.” I’m a data manager who is in charge of millions of dollars product for a major company!

    This obviously touches a nerve for me!

    • Charli says...

      YES. Your comment really resonates with me. I earn half our household income but my job sounds much less impressive than my husband’s job. It’s in the non-profit sector and I get the sense that people see it as temporary. We don’t have kids yet, but it’s on the very near horizon and I’m reading and planning as much as I can on how to propel my career while being a mother. I don’t think this same problem keeps him up at night because he doesn’t face the same discrimination.

      I’m reminded of this article – my favorite line is “First, let’s stop pretending that work is optional for most women in America.” – http://motto.time.com/4202685/kirsten-gillibrand-women-work/

    • Thank you for the link. Charli! I’m actually working on a series on feminism and modern motherhood on my blog (sloooooooowly, but still). That link will definitely come in handy for the section about working vs. staying home!

  121. I appreciate the initial empowering nature of the term. When people weren’t taking female “bosses” as seriously as their male counterparts the term brought attention to the women who are killing it in business. However, I think it’s time to move on from it. Some terms, like “girl boss”, serve a short term purpose so we can recognize a cultural shift/phenomenon/etc and then it just becomes the norm. I think it’s time to let go of “girl boss”.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      love that!

  122. TC says...

    Completely agree. I hate the term “girl boss” and couldn’t get through the book #girlboss either. It all feels very immature. That said, I hate all trend speak in the workplace.

  123. Sarah ann says...

    I do like lady boss though… but more as a hashtag/ironical way. In your lunch example if you called to email lady boss lunch it would make me laugh

  124. Nisa says...

    My husband and I own a business and he is referred to as the “boss” and I am the “bosses boss”! All in good fun, though.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      hahaha love that.

  125. Stephanie says...

    I like “lady boss”. I also like “manservant”.

  126. Leah says...

    The witty and wonderful Hadley Freeman has an article out on the Guardian website about this empowerment issue… “From Shopping to Naked Selfie”! Love both of you!

    • Jessica says...

      Leah, I thought of this article too as I read Jo’s post. For me, “girl boss” is exactly the kind of false “empowerment” Freeman discusses.

  127. Love this empowering post! I totally agree with you- the expression “girl boss” is patronizing and needs to go.

  128. meredith says...

    Totally agree. I’m so sick of the term. Just be a boss, girls. No need to be a girlboss.

  129. Kate says...

    I’ve never heard this term. I’ve actually never heard of anyone specifying gender when talking about someone’s title in the workplace. Maybe it’s because I work in education…We do have a lot of women in administration and upper level positions.

  130. Love this empowering post! I totally agree with you- the expression “girl boss” is patronizing.

  131. as a woman in business who manages employees, i have to say i don’t particularly care! while i wouldn’t necessarily think to use the term, i’m kind of tired of this whole feminism trend. omg just be people! just be!

    • TC says...

      “Feminism trend”? Really?

    • yes really, TC. it’s out of control. we should all just get to work and stop whining.

  132. I’m not on the “girl-boss” bandwagon. I feel the term has become so commercialized and just another hashtag companies add to market their products.
    Personally I feel that if women want to be treated as equals in the work place, we need to stop creating these little titles. Can you imagine if a group of men in the office started going on about “guy-boss”? You’d smell HR coming miles away!
    Ultimately we should let our work speak for itself, show respect to others, and be supportive to good ideas without regard to gender.

  133. I’m so glad you called our attention to Anna Jordan’s piece! #GirlBoss sounds to me as though we don’t believe we deserve the full “boss” title. It’s like how women are more likely to use qualifying phrases such as “I feel,” “I think,” etc. instead of stating declaratively. (Heck, I just realized I wrote “sounds to me” in my second sentence here! We’re all works in progress, right?)

  134. I just had an experience with this. I asked for more responsibility at work and was derisively told that I just want to be “Miss Boss” and run the whole show… needless to say I am looking for a new job :)

    • Erin says...

      Wow, that’s insane. Good luck finding a new spot!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      whoa!!! that is crazy. i remember my friend was running a conference and a man called her, “miss bossypants” and she said, “i’m not bossy — i am literally your boss.” i loved that.

    • Heidi says...

      @Joanna, that is awesome. I love hearing women stick up for themselves when these demeaning common phrases (that would never be said to a man) come up. That is how I determine whether something is sexist or not- if I could see someone saying a questionable phrase to a man, then it’s acceptable. But if I can’t… then it’s a green light to let the offender know it’s not ok.
      @Erin Thanks!! Hopefully soon! :)

  135. Melissa says...

    Using girl is infantilizing, but even using “Women Bosses” is ridiculous. It’s using a modifier. Meaning, if you say “women boss” that means you are assuming “bosses” are by default, men. Women are just “BOSSES” or “CEOs” or “Co-founder” or “Scientists” or “Professors” or what have you, no modifier needed.

    • Christine says...

      Yes to this! And, it’s interesting that you never hear it in the opposite except for “male model” or “male nurse” where men are (supposedly) the exception to the norm.

  136. I totally agree that it sounds absurd and I’m so glad that somebody is finally saying something! As a woman that owns a business, I’ve been surrounding myself with many other talented and creative female business owners, many of whom seem to be proud to label themselves as a Girlboss, though it’s always sounded silly and immature to me. Even referring to oneself as “the boss” seems a bit silly (unless you’re Tony Danza of course). I run a company. Yep, I’m also a woman.

    Looking forward to delving into the links here. Such a great topic and post. Thank you!!

  137. A says...

    It’s not a phrase for grown women. But I do think it might be empowering for young girls to hear it, and one could argue Sophia Amoruso’s audience trends toward youth. What I like is that it flips the script on the word ‘bossy’ that young girls so often hear. So if it empowers a young girl who is told she is bossy to respond with, “nah, I’m a boss,” then great. But like Anna Jordan’s husband, I’m 33 and a boss, and the label girl boss doesn’t feel like a fit.

    • Jessica says...

      Totally agree with this.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      yes, great point.

  138. Beth says...

    I know this is somewhat beside the point, but the word “boss” is grating all by itself. Whether you’re male or female, to call yourself a “boss” is demeaning to all those who prop you up with their own hard work, smarts, dedication, etc. “Girl boss” is doubly terrible. It not only infantilizes the woman in question. It takes her staff down with her.

  139. I agree with you 100%. I run two small businesses and a nonprofit group. I am not a #girlboss. I am a person under the age of 30 who is an actual boss. I sign a dozen paychecks every week. It’s fabulous, it’s fun, and roughly half the time I have no idea what I’m doing, but it’s not cute or adorable and woe be it to the person who thinks it is.

    No one would ever refer to my husband, just 5 years older than me and the co-owner of our business, as a Boy Boss. He’s a grown-ass man with over ten years of executive management experience.

    That being said, our biggest private joke is the “tell your husband” joke. We get so many customers (usually the 60+ years old crowd), who, no matter how many times I tell them I’m the owner, always end our chats with “tell your husband” line. All criticisms, compliments, etc. clearly have to go to him in order to be taken seriously! I’m just the wife. :)

  140. Britt Wesely says...

    Yay, Anna! I love this article and agree wholeheartedly.

  141. Joanna says...

    Agree with previous comments not sure why everything has to have a tag that is a women thing, men don’t waste there time with labelling they just get on with it it’s almost like we need to make it cute and quirky, why!!!. At work I’m the boss and that’s it : )

  142. Erin says...

    Yeah, no girlboss. Just boss

  143. J.D says...

    I feel that way about Supergirl. Why not Superwoman!
    It sounds absurd to gender specify some terms as if the word alone cannot speak for itself. Man-bun, man-purse, girl-crush… It’s still a bun, a purse or a crush!

  144. Kathleen says...

    Who the hell uses the term “girl boss”? Unless the person in question is 8 that makes no sense.

  145. Ruth says...

    I suspect that this is a term that women have used to sort of “couch” their success… a way of being a bit cheeky about it, perhaps in response to not feeling comfortable to just outright proclaim it? I know that in general, I seem to find it hard to proclaim my success, but this can be a real problem for women especially in male-dominated fields. The perception of authority and success really matters, and there is still plenty of subtle (and not-so-subtle) and unconscious bias. It has an impact on prospects and career trajectory.

    Girl boss is a diminutive. I can see why a person would be tempted to use it, but yeah, let’s not.

  146. Jennifer says...

    Totally ridiculous now that you point it out. And thank you for pointing it out.

  147. Totally against it! Not to sound curmudgeonly, but I really hate being called a girl in any scenario. I’m not a girl! I’m a woman. I’d say you stop being a girl when you’re 18, maybe. If you call a man a “boy” he’s probably going to feel emasculated. What’s the female equivalent for emasculation?? When I was in my mid-twenties my therapist/spiritual director pointed out that whenever I talked about guys/romantic relationships, I used the term “boy.” She said that referring to guys as boys and to myself as a girl was keeping me stuck in an immature way of relating to the opposite sex. It was true!

    • melissa says...

      Agree! And really, what is the female equivalent for emasculation??

  148. Kristin says...

    Ugh–I’ve never heard that term before and I can tell you that as soon as I read it, I hated it. Let’s all pretend we’ve never heard it and move on. I am a boss myself, and I’ve certainly never felt the need to qualify it as being a specifically female occupation. It immediately sets it apart as different from a “regular” boss. Yuck, yuck, yuck. Can you tell I hate it? :)