Today is International Women’s Day (IWD). At MOD, we are grateful to work with and celebrate women every day. As a team of 8 women and one man, we regularly and openly talk about our lived experiences as women in the work force and the biases we face. We collectively have years of experience living what it means to be a woman in the accounting profession. Concepts like pay inequity, discrimination, barriers to advancement and opportunity, and harassment in our male-dominated industry are common points of discussion because these are our lived truth.
A primary reason MOD was born was because Alicia was looking for a workplace that she was not able to find; she was looking for a workplace that at its core supported working moms and female professionals. It did not exist and so she decided to create it herself.
IWD’s 2022 theme is #breakthebias. Because feminism is one of our core values and is a theme we talk a lot about at MOD, breaking biases for gender equality hits home. The past few weeks at MOD we’re talking a lot about #bossbabe and #girlboss culture; we’re talking about why this culture is toxic and why it needs to stop.
The culture around #bossbabe and #girlboss tells us that it is expected that men can and will be business leaders, but that women are tied to a childish subset of business leadership. Women are encouraged to embrace the cutesy idea of “girl boss” culture and to bond with other #badassbossbabes. We’re expected to use the childish and appearance-centric versions of leadership that have been created specifically for women and to see ourselves represented in these hashtags and slogans.
Where are the #boybosses, #handsomebosses, and #bosshunks? These terms don’t exist because to say such things would be ridiculous. There are no qualifiers for male bosses; it’s inherent in the term “boss” that the reference is for a male leader. Never is a man’s appearance used as pretext in his title. Never is a male leader demoted to the childish term of “boy boss.” There are never hashtags for male bosses. Why would there be? Being a boss is a male right, right? It’s expected, right?
If it's ridiculous to contemplate the term #boyboss for men, then why isn’t it considered ridiculous for women?
#girlboss and #bossbabe culture stems from a patriarchal system – a system steeped in misogyny that insinuates that “boss” refers to men and that being a woman boss needs a qualifier. This culture keeps us women playing small, too. Throw #bossbabe into your search engine and see what comes up. You'll find a predictable colour scheme and predictable imagery of what it means to be a female “boss babe.” Is this culture truly representative of women leaders? Doesn’t this diminish women’s competence, intelligence, and power? Why are we all ok with this?
As women, we are expected to buy into this culture and act as though we can truly unite through terms like #bossbabes or #girlbosses. At MOD, this is not the qualifier that unites us. We choose to actively #breakthebias and ask for more #boss and less #bossbabe. We are not girls, we are women. We refuse to have appearance represent how we lead. We are smart, we are strong, we lift each other up, and we are powerful. We are women and we are bosses. We are women and we are business leaders.
How do we break these biases? We speak up and share our stories. At MOD, when we see emails come through talking about #girlpower events for women, we speak out. We have the conversations about why calling women “girls” is infantilizing. We prioritize feminism and gender equality in our client acceptance and hiring processes. Collectively, we can all make a difference by calling out misogynistic business practices. Speak up, email event organizers, comment on social media posts, and share how you feel. If the business world has the audacity to send out content that oppresses women, then we can have the courage to say we do not approve. Be brave. #breakthebias