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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Working Girl, 1988. It's a beloved little comedy centering on Tess McGill (Melanie Griffith), new to the cutthroat business world and secretary to Katharine Parker (Sigourney Weaver). When Katherine steals a tip from Tess to further ascend the corporate ladder, Tess "borrows" Katherine's identity to regain what is rightfully hers. The movie closes with Tess winning the showdown while a scorned Katherine fades into irrelevance with her tail between her legs. Oh, and Tess also manages to steal Katherine's boyfriend along the way. It is a heartwarming tale about two women battling for a seat at the boys' table that just so happens to be written by a man.
Pop culture, literature and real-world anecdotes have been telling us for decades that women are in competition with one another. The mythos surrounding Corporate America says that everything is dog eat dog, which often translates to woman versus woman. This, unfortunately, is not entirely untrue and is likely due to the fact there are so few seats available at the countless tables where women rightfully belong but are conspicuously absent from. It's a grueling climb to the top, and it seems like every woman for herself along the way. As of this year, women hold 6.6% of Fortune 500 CEO roles. That does not occur by happenstance; it is systemic. But we at VIPER want to have a hand in changing this.
VIPER is an all-female nightlife team in Los Angeles. We're no strangers to the occasionally nuanced, but more often blatant, patriarchal paradigms of working in a world that was built for men. Because of this, we understand and embrace the idea of collective evolution: leaving doors open for women wherever we can. From the beginning, we knew that we wanted our company's principles and culture to be unmistakably female-focused; it has never been a gimmick for us. As Co-CEOs and founders of VIPER (born under our parent company KCH Group), not only do we look to leave doors of opportunities open, we also work to empower the individuals who will eventually walk through them. While we are highly selective of who we employ, the number one characteristic we search for in a potential VIPER Girl is enthusiasm. There is so much room for growth, independence and creativity in our company; we seek out the people who will be inspired by the environment we strive to cultivate. This is why we never want our VIPER Girls to feel they've been simply "hired." We want them to feel brought into the fold.
We know firsthand that it is entirely possible for a woman to carve out a path for herself without the help of women in positions of power. We also know that it is entirely unnecessary. There is no hesitation on our end to lift other women up, nor should there be from any other females in high places. There is a huge danger in fanning the flames of resentment and competition. Every day, our bodies, our livelihoods and even our rights are threatened by middle-aged men in power. Furthermore, our victories are ridiculed and consistently opposed by those exact men who are maintaining a status quo that exists to hold all others back. We cannot keep putting up with relentless discriminatory restrictions placed on us in retaliation to our brave steps forward. We need to take back the standards and redefine them for ourselves, together. We don't require assistance from men in setting the bar. We set the bar higher than they could ever hope to. We want to prove, through positive influence, that professional growth and economic independence is possible for women and we want to show that it isn't without sacrifice or mistakes. Since day one, we've chosen to be transparent about our flaws as leaders. Our VIPER Girls have seen us stand up for ourselves and soar. They've also seen us fumble and deal with the fallout. In order for us to evolve together, we need to show one another that we don't have to be perfect to build a beautiful world. If the world were perfect, it would never be beautiful.
This is what we've always believed in... And maybe that's how we were always able to believe in ourselves. We started our company in our early twenties with only fifteen hundred dollars. In the last three years we have dominated the nightlife industry and gained clientele that is unmatched. We understand, now more than ever, the impact women are capable of if we support and provide agency for each other. If we can thrive in the male-dominated business environment, we can certainly work to fix it. We will expand our reach and bring insurmountable change. Our futures can be reimagined and renegotiated. We can do it, together. We must.