It's a name that is immediately confrontational, exceedingly direct, owning the ways men talk down to and infantilize women and the constant charge of "bossiness" leveled at any woman with the gall to be commanding. Girlboss has the ring of defiance, yes, but also of solidarity; it is the act of declaring that, yes, I am like other girls. I am not interested in whether you think I can hang, and you can't expect me to chuckle at your jokes about women. A girl, in short, is the boss, and there's not a damn thing you can do about it.
So it's a good name for Sophia Amoruso – the founder of Nasty Gal and the author of an autobiography called, in fact, #Girlboss – to use for her new social media platform. Girlboss (the website) aims to take on LinkedIn's monopoly on professional networking, but is less interested in destroying it than specializing. You see, Girlboss is LinkedIn for millennial women, and it carries with it the attitude of the almost brash rebellion its name demands. And I think it's exactly what we need.
No matter how much we may wish we lived in a meritocracy, we don't; that's not how humans are wired, and I suspect it never will be. Instead, success in almost any enterprise is as much a matter of who as what you know, which makes professional networks both vertical and horizontal critical to any career. And that often means social time apart from work. But the stock images of sucking up to the boss are a bunch of rich old men taking a young upstart golfing or a bunch of hooting, suited men at a strip club, and that communicates something vital: professional networking has historically been about membership in a boy's club. And that's something to which women simply do not have the same level of access.
So something like Girlboss excites me for the same reason I get excited about speaking at women's professional development and networking conferences; it gets around that problem by letting women meet and interact with their colleagues in a space where nobody is making them feel like their presence is a courtesy, where no one is hitting on you, where no one will assume you have a junior role to your male counterparts. It's invigorating in ways I can't readily describe, the sense of liberty of movement these spaces have. But the ad-hoc networks that result simply aren't the same; they don't offer that critical component of access.
So something like Girlboss excites me for the same reason I get excited about speaking at women's professional development and networking conferences
Social media, however, is the great leveler: everyone is a face on a screen with a keyboard, and everyone gets a say. For better or for worse, it has enabled the creation of vast networks of human beings, working for common goals and in common service – and which usually have the exact same marginalizing effect on woman as those out in meatspace, with all the requisite problems: shutting women out of conversation, denying our achievements, valuing us based on perceived sex appeal, and on and on. So the rise of a women's professional social network – if indeed it ends up being a rise – is thrilling, because it does something nobody has tried yet: giving women the ability to network as a class on a massive scale, bypassing male gatekeeping authorities entirely. To me, that feels both downright revolutionary and stultifyingly obvious. Where has this been?
Because, as has been the case for seemingly all of human history, men and women tend to exist in parallel societies, where male societies control power and money; as such, women who cross that boundary tend to be seen as, on some level, interlopers. Just look at the ongoing question of whether the United States is "ready" for a woman president, whatever the hell that means. So the creation of what I've taken to calling alternative structures for women who are operating in male-dominated spaces is fundamentally of prime importance. Consider that in 2017, women founders received only 2% of venture capital funding, a number that would certainly have been lower were it not for the existence of women-focused VC groups specifically looking for women founders to fund. That's a harsh fact to contemplate: even with such groups, we only broached 2%. That's because we're navigating unrelentingly hostile territory; we, simply put, are not welcome.
That means we have to stand together and lift each other up, and the existence of a space like Girlboss to assist with that excites me in a powerful way, because of what it may presage: an expansion of professional opportunity for women through the creation of robust, industry-spanning networks, allowing women to discover new careers, new mentors, and strategies for existing in a man's world. That's the sort of thing that's been difficult to create on anything larger than a local scale, so it's my hope that all of that is about to change, and women will finally be able to do something that's long needed doing: changing the world.
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"There are only two or three human stories, and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they had never happened before." -Willa Cather
A logical fallacy called bifurcation (yes, it sounds like a disease) is used to make people believe that they can only choose between two extreme choices: love me or leave me, put up or shut up, etc. In relation to my career and my love life, I was once stricken by this crazy malady.
I spent over a decade in and out of love relationships that undermined my career and drained my creative energy along with my finances. The key problem was that I was convinced that I had two options: be a kickass, and powerful professional who scares off any prospective mate or surrender to that deep and profound love such that my ambitions blow away in the wind. For years, my psyche ping-ponged between these two choices like that was the only game in town. But why?
Turns out we women are often programmed into thinking that we can't have love (at least that good, juicy heated kind) and any sort of real career. This is not actually that surprising given the troubled history that America has with women in the workplace. Post WWII, women were supposed to quit their jobs and scurry back home and leave the careers for the returning men. And if you think we've come a long way from making women feel they don't belong in the workplace, consider Alisha Coleman. In 2016, she was fired because her period leaked onto a chair!
But try to keep a good woman down, and well, you can't (Alisha sued her former employer). Given enough information we will always find a way to overcome our situation. As we teach in my practice, Lotus Lantern Healing Arts, we are all our own gurus. The light in the lotus just offers a way to illuminate your path.
So what was I missing so many years ago when I kept struggling between two suboptimal choices? The answer is the understanding that if I wanted to have it all, I had to start living right now as if I could. For me to be with someone who supported me having a fantastic career, I had to believe that that was actually one of my choices and start living that way.
Of course that is easier said than done (like most life lessons). So once I made that realization, here are the three key changes I made (and no they didn't happen all at once):
First, I stopped apologizing. Why the hell do women always feel the need to apologize for everything! (Sorry for swearing! Jk.) In particular, why do we have to feel bad about time away from the homefront? Remember Don Draper stopping off at the bar before heading home? I took a Madman lesson from him and stopped apologizing for my free time and let go of my usual rush to get back. Instead I focused on enjoying the transition, which was often needed to release the stress of work. Whether I was slow-driving listening to my jams and singing at the top of my lungs or stopping off for a pedicure, a little ritual went a long way to making me feel like a real human when I walked through the door.
Second, I let go of perfection in order to be present. I stopped stressing over a work deadline and instead rescheduled it to tend to my love life or postponed a romantic dinner because a juicy work opportunity appeared. In this way, I did not force an unnatural choice or one I did not want but really paid attention to what felt right. Instead of feeling subpar in each realm, I end up getting the most out of my time in both places.
Third (and perhaps most significantly) I began to welcome and expect encouragement from the most significant person in my life. I made it clear to my partner that I wanted insight and not criticism. And since I knew I needed understanding and not saving, I said, "Please help me look at my career woes from a different angle instead of offering me advice." Ultimately, I only accepted partners that truly supported my dreams and didn't let me play small.
Today, some of the most exquisite pleasure I feel comes simply from my partner witnessing me. Having a cohort who really appreciates my struggles, helps me integrate work and life, and enjoys the wins together can be mind-blowing. Likewise, when the shit hits the fan (again, not sorry!), it's really important to have a partner that can hold space for you and help you remember those wins.
It's a constant battle. Our culture still perpetuates the myth by pitting love and career against each other (ever see Fatal Attraction?). Men don't always get this message, but then we don't need to wait for them to get it. All we have to do it start living right now in the way we truly deserve and bring others along with us. When my friends see me and my partner together separately killing it in the career department and fiercely loving each other they say, "Your relationship gives me hope."