CEO DailyCFO DailyBroadsheetData SheetTerm Sheet

Has #Girlboss gotten a bad rap?

September 1, 2021, 1:14 PM UTC
Sophia Amoruso speaks onstage during the 2019 Girlboss Rally at UCLA on June 30, 2019 in Los Angeles, California.
Emma McIntyre—Getty Images for Girlboss

This is the web version of The Broadsheet, a daily newsletter for and about the world’s most powerful women. Sign up to get it delivered free to your inbox.

Good morning, Broadsheet readers! The Theranos trial begins, Texas’s six-week abortion ban and “bounty hunting” law goes into effect, and we reconsider the girlboss. Have a thoughtful Wednesday.

– Who’s the boss? #Girlboss.

How does the term make you feel? Do you cringe—or embrace it?

Girlboss had its moment in the five or so years after it was first coined by Nasty Gal founder Sophia Amoruso in 2014. It quickly became a sort of shorthand for a particular sort of feminism (or at least feminist positioning) mixed with hustle culture, and was thrown around a lot in reference to the growing number of female entrepreneurs and other powerful young women making a name for themselves in the business world.

But as a number of those rising stars started to flame out (read Maria Aspan’s “Female Founders Under Fire” for a far more nuanced take), the cult of the Girlboss started to sputter. And, as the pandemic has inspired more women to question the get-rich-or-die-trying ethos of the past decade or so, it felt increasingly out of touch.

So I was fascinated to read this essay in The Cut from Samhita Mukhopadhyay, a former editor at Teen Vogue, which doesn’t exactly try to reclaim the term, but does suggest that there’s some facet of its meaning and importance that we’ve overlooked.

Mukhopadhyay talks to women who still identify with the concept of the Girlboss. For them, it’s not the “too-cute branding and the Instagram-follower counts and untenable investment dollars,” but the conviction that ambition is a powerful force, one that has the potential to change their lives. It can “provide a template for young women as they move forward in their careers,” she writes. “And many of these young women, especially the less privileged ones, needed to believe they could get ahead in order to do so.”

Women’s ambitions may be shifting, but certainly they haven’t vanished. So do we need an updated, catchy new phrase to replace Girlboss? I hope not. The term served a purpose for many women and I agree with Mukhopadhyay that looking back at it with disdain misses the point. But from here on out, let’s let ambitious women choose and define their own identity, rather trying to lump them together with a too-easily dismissed hashtag.

Kristen Bellstrom

The Broadsheet, Fortune’s newsletter for and about the world’s most powerful women, is coauthored by Kristen Bellstrom, Emma Hinchliffe, and Claire Zillman. Today’s edition was curated by Emma Hinchliffe


- Reproductive rights? The Supreme Court did not block Texas's six-week abortion ban at midnight, as some advocates hoped the court would, allowing the law to officially take effect. Abortions in the state of almost 30 million are now illegal for many women before they know they are pregnant, "effectively ending Roe v. Wade protections in the state." SB8 allows private citizens to sue abortion providers and anyone who helps a woman obtain an abortion. NPR

- Slack chatApple prevented employees from creating a Slack channel that would have been used to discuss pay equity, according to a report in The Verge. The tech company says Slack channels must "advance the work, deliverables, or mission of Apple departments and teams." But the story points out that off-topic channels about subjects like pets and gaming are permitted. The Verge

- Fashion forward. Fast-fashion staple Zara is often the envy of other retailers. Behind the brand is Marta Ortega Pérez, the daughter of parent company Inditex's billionaire founder who works in design and merchandising. "I will always be wherever the company needs me most," she says. Wall Street Journal

- Why they got vaccinated. We've heard a lot about vaccine hesitancy and pregnancy, but what about the expectant mothers who have chosen to get vaccinated? Almost a dozen moms share their stories in this piece; one calls her choice to get the COVID-19 vaccine the "best decision I made." The 19th*

MOVERS AND SHAKERS: Anne Wojcicki joins the board of delivery platform Zipline. Jezebel named writer Laura Bassett its new editor-in-chief. Mental health startup Alma hired Wayfair exec Laura Scott as COO and Kate Mellor as VP of payer strategy. D.C. United president Danita Johnson is joining the board of live sports platform Buzzer.  Ticket marketplace Vivid Seats hired Walmart alum Tyra Neal as CMO.  Vertical farming business Plenty hired Jessica McKinley as VP of product management. At professional services firm JLL, Kate Duncan was named head of human resources; Tanya Earley was named head of Americas marketing; and Katie McNaughton was named COO of Americas markets.


- Court's in session. On the first day of the Theranos trial yesterday, Elizabeth Holmes appeared in court. The trial is in the jury selection phase; the judge has said that exposure to the Theranos story via the media is not enough on its own to disqualify a juror. Wall Street Journal

- Game, set, match. The U.S. Open kicked off this week, and Naomi Osaka's first match was Monday night. Today, she'll play Olga Danilović of Serbia. The major tournament follows a tumultuous year for Osaka, and before the Open began she reflected on her battle with perfectionism. New York Times

- Now hiringFidelity Investments, the financial services company led by CEO Abigail Johnson, is hiring at a rapid pace. The business plans to bring on 9,000 employees this year as it fights to keep up with demand for stock trading and other personal investing services. Wall Street Journal


Strava is making its most popular safety feature free for everyone Gizmodo

Kanye West's Donda is a tribute to Mom full of people who hate women The Daily Beast

Why are judges forcing survivors of domestic abuse back into court while Delta spreads? Slate


"Clearly I’ve been through a lot. The spark is back—and everybody’s noticing."

-McKayla Maroney on her journey post-gymnastics career, from helping to take down Larry Nassar to taking care of her own mental health

Subscribe to Fortune Daily to get essential business stories straight to your inbox each morning.