︎︎︎episode 17

Tragic Trends: Cult of Girlboss (Part 1 The Rise) - Broken Rung, For Profit Feminism, Role Models and The New B Word

Nov 24, 2020

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Amanda and Kim toss on their power suits and talk about the Tragic Trends: Cult of the Girlboss. 

But first we dive into Amanda’s new obsession with Faux Fruits>> and the sweet sweet trend of collecting, photographing and displaying these oft-overlooked home garnishes.

Cult of the Girlboss ︎︎︎︎

Coined in 2014 #girlboss was popularized by Sophia Amoruso’s autobiography and aspirational business tome - skyrocketing to popular culture through heavy use of social media frenzy and the rise of the ambitious Millenial women in the workplace.


Spawned from the proliferation of “girlboss” came Bossbabe, SHE-EO, Mompreneur, and Boss Bitch appealing to a (mostly white) pseudo-feminist with a nack for business with the intention of lifting up the women around. By 2020 the cracks started to show and these concepts became shunned while businesses crumbled around it.

How did this start?


Millenials were at a pivotal age (14-29) - coming out as an aspirational force in the workplace and 2010 - for the first time ever in American history - women outnumber men. Besides that the job market was changing drastically - new jobs, VC funding, silicon valley, et al. In 2010 Hanna Rosin released an article with The Atlantic titled “The End of Men”>> -  theorizing that due to a culture shif women have essentially won the gener war.

“Earlier this year, for the first time in American history, the balance of the workforce tipped toward women, who now hold a majority of the nation’s jobs. The working class, which has long defined our notions of masculinity, is slowly turning into a matriarchy, with men increasingly absent from the home and women making all the decisions. Women dominate today’s colleges and professional schools—for every two men who will receive a B.A. this year, three women will do the same. Of the 15 job categories projected to grow the most in the next decade in the U.S., all but two are occupied primarily by women. Indeed, the U.S. economy is in some ways becoming a kind of traveling sisterhood: upper-class women leave home and enter the workforce, creating domestic jobs for other women to fill.”

Not So Fast

The Glass Ceileng continued to hold women back from the executive level - McKinsey Reported back in 2011>>:

“As has been well documented, Corporate America has a “leaky” talent pipeline: At each transition up the management ranks, more women are left behind... women represent 53% of new hires... At the very first step in career advancement (which they will later call in other reports the “broken wrung” which is an ever present foe to women even today)—when individual contributors are promoted to managers—the number drops to 37%. Climbing higher, only 26% of vice presidents and senior executives are female and only 14% of the executive committee, on average, are women. At this point women are doubly handicapped because, as our research of the largest US corporations shows, 62% are in staff jobs that rarely lead to a CEO role; (in contrast, 65% of men on executive committees hold line jobs.) This helps explain why the number of women CEOs in Fortune 500 companies appears stuck at 2-3%.”

Role Models

So with such a low number of women advancing left few role models for women - particularly Millennials. Millennials resonate with Millenials. And there weren’t a whole lot of people to look up to at that time especially in business.

Enter Facebook COO superstar Sheryl Sandberg (also a Harvard Business grad) - who isn’t an millennial but inspired many of these millienial Alpha Business Women that rose to fame during the Aughties. In 2010, she gave an electrifying TED talk called   "Why We Have Too Few Women Leaders,"   in which she described how women unintentionally hold themselves back in their careers - viewed over 6 million times and considered a pivot point in corporate feminism at this time.

In 2013 Sandberg releases Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead to high acclaim. in an effort to change the conversation from what women can’t do to what they can. Sandberg provides practical advice on how to achieve the dream of the corner office - with tips on negotiation techniques, mentorship, and building a satisfying career. She essentially pushes the idea that feminism is an independent execution that a woman can bear for herself and move herself forward through personal professional advocacy. Some criticim about the book obviously comes from her academic background and the opportunities themselves achievable.

Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead>>>

The New B Word

The word Bossy in regards to women leaders was getting a bit of heat - Tina Fey came out with Bossypants and Sanberg was leading a movement to “Ban Bossy”.


Interestingly - a year or two later #Girlboss>> was released as an Alternative to Lean In - targeting the Millenialset and subverting the concepts Sandberg was trying to dismantle.

The book appealed to its target audience and made corporate achievement and fame see, well, achievable to the “everywomen” - sans pedigree. A rags to riches bent with an angle toward female empowerment. But she did essentially distill the ethos of Lean In and spew back out packaged perfectly for the hungry millennial audience as a "girlboss." It celebrates a certain kind of businesswoman -- entreprenural, disruptive and most always white -- whose ambitious nature and success professionally was thought to be a subversive, radical, feminist act.

The Feminist Aesthetic

With a massive customer database, social media following and intellectual property this book seved to drive personal brand building for Amoruso and also work to acquire new customers for Nasty Gal and fuel a new level of consumerism and product for the followers.

Faulty Feminism

Millenial women wanted a piece of that magic sauce and related to her - seeing their aspirations to be a self made celebrity business entrepreneur - or just a girlboss at their own job. They wanted to celebrate themselves in the workplace and opportunities, new jobs and new companies and new types of business started to become available. Particularly in the VC disruptor world. The hashtag acted as a As a rallying cry for a generation of young women who might not otherwise have thought to start their own businesses, #girlboss bore countless hopes and dreams - even if ill worded it had this rebellious feminist angle that particularly resonated

In an interview with Elle>>, Amoruso mused, "Maybe girlboss is a new word for feminism."

may we remind you.....


Medium wrote: The white girlboss, and so many of them were white, sat at the unique intersection of oppression and privilege. She saw gender inequity everywhere she looked; this gave her something to wage war against. Racial inequity was never really on her radar. That was someone else’s problem to solve. - which we will find is the kink in the #girlboss armour.

More Rank Risers

More Alpha Female Founders started to rise in for women by women brands with VC backing and insta-fame.

Fast Company  - The Instagram trap: Social influence is helping women build brands—as long as they follow the rules

Entrepreneurial women are finding that they have unprecedented influence, whether or not they want it.

“The female-founder-as-influencer phenomenon didn’t emerge overnight. Investors have long sought out entrepreneurs who embody a certain kind of “magnetism,” says Kirsten Green, founding partner at nine-year-old venture capital firm Forerunner Ventures, which has invested in a number of high-profile, female-forward brands over the years. “As a founder, you’re going to have to move mountains,” she says. “You’re going to have to compel so many people to get on that journey with you,” including investors, employees, and customers.”

They spoke of transparency and empowering women not just in their community and customer base but right there in their business structure. Magical Places full of rainbows and unicorns for women to roam free -unencumbered by society's prejudice.

Outdoor Voices
The Wing
Man Repeller
Who What Wear

Insert foreboading music here...

Stay tuned for our next episode on the Fall of the Cult of the Girlboss ︎︎︎