The girl boss isn’t dead, she’s just evolved

For months now, we’ve been told that the era of the “girl boss” has ended.

For those unfamiliar, the term was created in the early 2010s and made famous by self-identifying “girl boss”, Sophia Amoruso. As CEO of now-defunct online retailer Nasty Gal, it seemed Amoruso was trying to tell the world that she wasn’t like regular CEOs – she was a cool CEO.

Emily Weiss, Sophia Amoruso, Leandra Medine and Audrey Gelman were among some of the best known CEOs and leaders of the girl <a href=boss era.” src=”https://static.ffx.io/images/$zoom_0.662%2C$multiply_0.5855%2C$ratio_1.776846%2C$width_1059%2C$x_0%2C$y_0/t_crop_custom/q_86%2Cf_auto/a38991af43e31293ac95d0950dbd301e3a63e551″ height=”349″ width=”620″ srcset=”https://static.ffx.io/images/$zoom_0.662%2C$multiply_0.5855%2C$ratio_1.776846%2C$width_1059%2C$x_0%2C$y_0/t_crop_custom/q_86%2Cf_auto/a38991af43e31293ac95d0950dbd301e3a63e551, https://static.ffx.io/images/$zoom_0.662%2C$multiply_1.1709%2C$ratio_1.776846%2C$width_1059%2C$x_0%2C$y_0/t_crop_custom/q_62%2Cf_auto/a38991af43e31293ac95d0950dbd301e3a63e551 2x”/>

Emily Weiss, Sophia Amoruso, Leandra Medine and Audrey Gelman were among some of the best known CEOs and leaders of the girl boss era.

The branding exercise phrase piggybacked off a societal shift, whereby a crop of cult-like, female-focused brands, all founded and run by young women, began identify as being “built by women, for women”. Names like Amoruso, Emily Weiss of Glossier, Yael Aflalo of Reformation, Audrey Gelman of The Wing, Leandra Medine of Man Repeller and Steph Korey of Away were front and centre. If the Spice Girls were reimagined and replaced by icons of the girl boss era, those women would have been the new lineup.

To reflect on that time is to realise the full potential of social media and the relatively new trend of going viral, as well as then-new content formats like memes. The thing that many of these companies did, and did well, was they utilised these formats in a way few others could and, in the process, make their companies global successes.


Girl bosses were advocates for working to the point of burnout, working at the expense of their personal lives and championing a culture that expected junior employees to work as hard as senior management. Many male CEOs of the same era did the same, but the girl bosses marketed this kind of behaviour in a way that made it feel aspirational.

For a while, we lifted these women up. But quickly, we also tore them down.

In 2017, The New York Times wrote: “The Wing, A Woman’s Chic Business Club is Going Wide.” By 2020, the follow-up headline read: “The Wing Is a Woman’s Utopia; Unless You Work There”.

Similarly, for Weiss, a 2016 headline read: “Emily Weiss: the Beauty Guru for Millennials”. Six years later: “Glossier’s Emily Weiss, Among the Last of the Girlbosses, Steps Down”, as though female leaders were being told to wrap it up.

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