In recent years, phrases such as “girl boss” were used to empower women in the workforce. Now, some female entrepreneurs and executives are concerned these peppy terms — or simply adding the word female ahead of titles and positions — marginalize women. For designer Sophia Webster, however, owning her identity as the female founder of her brand is still more important than ever.
“I try to harness the feminine in feminism. I am not shy about positively shouting about being female in everything I do. To me, identifying execs as female advances the journey to [gender] equality,” she told FN.
Webster first launched her eponymous label in 2012. She was working a design assistant to Nicholas Kirkwood at the time. Her business has since prospered, arguably on the back of her feminine identity.
The designer is known for her whimsical designs, featuring butterflies, hearts and crystals, and she has used this aesthetic to great a strong connection with her consumer. Part of that also stemmed from her “Bosslady” collection, which debuted in fall ’15.
“Through engagement with my followers, I know that what inspires them is the fact that I’m a female who, at 26, established a global business in a male-dominated marketplace,” Webster said, noting her “Bosslady” products are continuous top-sellers season after season.
“There is an authentic message behind [those shoes] and women often buy them as a reward to themselves, a prize for their achievements, and I love that. Shoe purchases are often fueled by emotion, and what is special for the ‘BossLady’ pumps is that the emotion is usually pride. Whether it is getting a promotion at work, graduating from college or holding down a busy family life; it is not just women in business who relate to that title and I see that first-hand,” she added.
Webster said she is called “The BossLady” at work, which is comprised of 97% women and that the phrase is always used with respect. (Although, she said can see why the phrase “girl boss” could be infantilizing for women in positions of power and doesn’t personally use that term.)
“Until the playing field is level I don’t think it helps to downplay the message of women in executive positions. It makes more sense to address the imbalance by pointing it out in the hope of inspiring and encouraging female leaders of the future,” she said.