Ladies, we’re a hot topic right now. Whether it’s the strength and smarts of female bosses being celebrated, the gender pay gap being debated, stories of blatant discrimination, or just the overall differences of women and men in the workplace being discussed ad nauseam, we just can’t escape the headlines these days. And that is a great thing.
I am a "#Girlboss" like the one Nasty Gal Founder and CEO Sophia Amoruso describes in her New York Times best-selling book. Being described as a girl boss is new. I’ve been a boss for quite some time. While there are many times I want to thank Amoruso for her bold intelligence that made this a "thing," sometimes I wonder if the rest of the world knows what to do with it.
As I understand it, the intention of "#Girlboss" is to show loudly and proudly that strong, capable women are at the top of many things these days. No longer do we try to look and act like our male counterparts, lewd humor and all. (Stereotypes intended and acknowledged). No longer are we vying for the one and only spot for a woman at the top, leading to nastiness within our ranks. And, no longer are we willing to accept that we deserve less of anything because we’re women, including respect and money. The J. Walter Thompson/Erin Johnson scandal is just the latest blatant illustration of our demand for equality, respect and justice.
So what is it then? What are successful, happy women doing right? What are the companies and brands that surround and celebrate them figuring out?
Here it is in a nutshell.
Women are different, and they act differently.
That’s right. I said it. When women are successful, truly successful, there’s a common thread. Success stories abound when women fully embrace their entire selves and are authentically who they are for all the world to see.
So what are the differences we should be celebrating with reckless abandon?
Well for starters:
We are bringing our femininity to the job and making it an integral part of our identity. We are wearing high fashion and embracing beauty as a part of our roles because most of us enjoy it.
Ipsos was one of the first to call national attention to this with its Girls’ Lounge at major industry events. It took but a millisecond for critics to start calling out how getting nails and hair done was such a backwards way to think about women in business. Um — nuh-uh. It’s amazing.
I have two small children and one very large advertising company to run. Between my home life and my travel, I never, ever have the kind of time for personal care I wish I did. I love looking good and taking care of my physical self. It makes me feel more confident, and therefore I act more confident, which makes me more successful.
Bravo Ipsos and Girls’ Lounge founder Shelley Zalis for giving women what we want and deserve: a hot minute to do something for ourselves. As Zalis (who left Ipsos last year, secured sponsors and took the Girls’ Lounge on the road) once said, "A woman who wants to be a man is a waste of a woman."
We apply female traits to management style, including personal accountability and respect and empathy for others. We’re offering more thoughtful and caring practice to running our business and our teams because that’s how many women are naturally and because we’re successful doing it.
Kevin O’Leary, the loudest and most opinionated shark in the Shark Tank, just came out with the following statement in Business Insider: "I don't have a single company run by a man right now that's outperformed the ones run by women." O’Leary and others credit this to multitasking. I don’t think they’re wrong, I just think that’s a byproduct of being more thoughtful in our approach. Women think things through on a more detailed level, which allows us to be more thorough in our actions.
Today’s women are more inclined to be their authentic selves. In other words, we’re finding leaders who have skills and ideas previous generations never even dreamed of.
This sudden honesty with who we are likely stems from decades of having to pretend that as women we’ve never dreamed bigger than being a mother or housewife. Even The Notorious RBG, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, was asked by admissions at Harvard why she felt she deserved placement in a class dominated by men.
But we’re coming a long way, baby. As Fast Company reports, power is all about the ability to truly influence people and make an impact in their lives. That can only come when you are being your authentic self.
We’re finally speaking up. This last one is the most important. We’re asking for things many women before us never did. To volunteer for an assignment or a project. For a raise. Let me repeat that one. Asking for a raise. And an opportunity. And a day off. And assistance with maternity and child care. And advice. And for correcting injustices and horrific behavior. We are asking and talking. A lot.
And we’re telling the next generation to do this, too. We’re supporting them and advising them and being vocal with them about speaking up. We are mentoring each other and the ones who are coming up. We are once again being loud and proud. Because we should be. Because we can be. Because men would be. We just do it differently. And, often even better.
Rachel Spiegelman is president of Pitch, a Project: WorldWide agency.