Is there such a thing as a good boss?
You’ve all seen the inspiring #Girlboss images on social media. Women who seem to do it all and succeed in all areas of their lives. The idea was that girlbosses were taking control so we could have workplaces that promoted strong women, celebrated diversity and lifted women leaders who would treat employees well.
But a number of recent memes and articles pronounce the girlboss dead. And maybe that isn’t such a bad thing.
Girlbossing isn’t feminism’s answer to capitalism – it is capitalism, and often works to perpetuate sexism, race, class divide, encourage unrealistic expectations, and oppression. It places the blame on women for not working hard enough and doesn’t address any of the issues that our working lives have entrenched.
Would you expect a man to work two jobs, and if he did, would you call him a ‘boyboss’?
According to journalist Nadeine Asbali, ‘The girlboss isn’t dead: she’s a mum now.’
Asbali outlines how one of the most insidious spaces for girlboss culture is amongst female business owners on social media.
They are often white, privileged, straight women who depict themselves as picture-perfect mothers, while simultaneously working, creating the unrealistic expectation that workers can juggle all these responsibilties alone and without the proper support.
With the proper support systems in place – whether that be free childcare or better superannuation payments – women could pursue a work/life balance that wouldn’t require constant, exhausting hustling.
The hustle and grind celebrated within girlboss culture actually harms working mums more than it helps them.
It perpetuates the devaluation of women’s labour: caring for a child is the equivalent of a full-time job and then some. So the expectation that women should bring in income at the same time places a double burden on them.
How does girlboss culture impact working mums?
Working mums are already disadvantaged by a culture that does not value care as labour, and this devaluation of women’s work manifests in many ways that widen the gender pay gap.
Free childcare would go a long way in narrowing the gap. Working parents in Australia are paying for one of the most expensive early childhood education and care systems in the developed world.
Research from The Australia Institute has demonstrated that not only do Nordic countries have higher female participation rates than Australia, but a higher proportion of women workers also participate in full time employment. It is not an accident that this is the case. Nordic countries have specifically decided to support women workers.
For the average super fund, that’s an $85,000 difference and if we don’t tackle the gender super gap, it is estimated to last until at least 2061.
The very ‘hustle’ culture that the girlboss promotes is part of a much larger problem where women are more likely to be in unreliable jobs. The girlboss romanticises the labour involved in side hustles, ignoring the fact that these additional projects are often borne out of necessity for extra income due to poverty wages in their primary job.
How can we fight for working women’s time and money?
After years of hard campaign work, union members won maternity leave in 1979. The leave has changed over the years thanks to ongoing campaign work to become more inclusive.
Now workers in unions are demanding super to be paid on parental leave so working parents are treated fairly.
We must move away from the idea of grind and hustle culture amongst working mums and give women the support and time they need to care for their children without the pressure of bringing in extra income.
Joining your union is the best way to ensure a decent working life and retirement. Care work is work and all workers should be able to enjoy a decent work/life balance.
The Australian union movement has always treated labour as more than something to be bought and sold.
Workers are people first. That’s why union members stand together for better workplace conditions and protected workers rights. Always.