Why It’s OK Not to Consider Yourself a “Girl Boss”

STYLECASTER | Why We Hate the Term "Girl Boss"
Photo: Getty Images

The term is written on coffee mugs and T-shirts, and it’s even a social media hashtag: Everybody seems to be a “girl boss” these days. What exactly is a girl boss, and do all females in business need to use this term? We spoke to professional women to find out how they really feel about the trending term.

“I think the term girl boss can have both positive and negative connotations,” says Elizabeth Ricci, a lawyer from Florida. “Unfortunately, when the label girl is introduced, it is often to demean or connote weakness.” Ricci doesn’t believe that women have to be a boss—as in leader of an organization—to be successful. She considers herself a supervisor, as she makes critical business decisions, but is happier being called “the boss” instead of a “girl boss.”

Unfortunately, when the label girl is introduced, it is often to demean or connote weakness.

Amanda Austin isn’t a huge fan of the term, either. “It is really ambiguous, and everyone seems to think it applies to them,” says Austin, who runs Little Shop of Miniatures based in Pennsylvania. “I take it they are trying to refer to themselves as self-starters who have people working under them. Personally, I find the term rather silly and a bit degrading, too,” says Austin, who would rather refer to herself as an entrepreneur or leader. “I am a full-grown woman and don’t really like referring to myself as a girl. Also, the word boss has always had a negative connotation.”

MORE: 5 Questions to Help You Figure Out if You’re in the Right Career

Jules Dahbura, founder of the cosmetics company Deco Miami, says she can’t stand the phrase. “I started working on my business in my early twenties, and age was my biggest obstacle in earning respect from professionals within my industry,” says Dahbura. “If someone that I had a professional relationship with ever referred to me as a girl boss, I would stop working with them because it shows that someone doesn’t really see you in a real position of power. Would you call Anna Wintour or Jenna Lyon girl bosses? I wouldn’t—I suppose because I just see them as ‘bosses’ with nothing ‘girl’ about them,” she continues.

Would you call Anna Wintour or Jenna Lyon girl bosses? I wouldn’t.

Dahbura says many women involved in multilevel marketing (MLM) businesses (such as Isagenix or Avon) tend to use the term a lot. That’s another reason why she tries to separate herself from the phrase. “Maybe when you’re pushing products to women within your own social network, they don’t mind doing business with a ‘girl boss,’ but I want my own customers, suppliers, and collaborators to feel like they’re working with a boss in every regard of the word,” Dahbura adds.

MORE: 7 Under-the-Radar Ways to Improve Your Online Job Hunt

Girl Boss or Girl Bash?

Not everyone defines girl boss so literally. In that sense, it can be empowering, some women say. Alicia White, president and founder of the nonprofit organization Project Petals, says the expression girl boss refers to a woman that’s in control of her career, life, and destiny. “I think it’s important to be the boss of your career, whether you’re in an executive role or not,” she says. “It’s important for women to charter their own course in the career world.”

Candice Simmons, president of Brooklyn Outdoor, agrees. Girl boss describes a woman “owning it in the workplace or running their own business.” “All women can be inspired by the phrase to take control of their own lives and make decisions for themselves. In this sense, everyone can be a girl boss by following their own path,” Simmons says.

Although girl boss is a buzzy term right now, Simmons doesn’t believe it’s realistic to assume every girl is striving to be the boss or owner of a company. “Not everyone wants to take on the challenges that come with being in charge, and that’s OK,” she says.

MORE: 8 Crucial Signs That Your Workplace is Toxic

Girl Boss, Girl Badass

Personally, as someone who is self-employed, I guess I could be considered a girl boss. But I’d rather not be called one. Overall, I think women should define success in other ways than solely being a “boss.” Have to tell everyone that you’re the boss? Go for it.

Whatever you prefer to call yourself, make it authentic, positive, and empowering. And who knows, even if “girl boss” bookmarks still clog up your Instagram feed, maybe head bitch in charge (HBIC) will make a comeback. I can already see the tote bags.