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Mind Your Business: Work It, Girl


The Girl Scouts have gone all pink and sparkly on the fairer sex and this, according to the researchers who’ve studied the phenomenon, is not a good thing.

The problem, it seems, is that girls aren’t getting the same level of career-oriented instruction as boys. Instead of earning an “Astronomer” badge, for example, Girl Scouts earn a “Sky Search” badge. The female version of the “Mechanic” badge is the far more passive “Car Care” badge. All this dainty language, the researcher contends, is robbing girls of the opportunity to be more focused on their future careers.

In spite of this, single, childless women in many of the nation’s metro areas out-earn their male counterparts and more women are now enrolled in American colleges than men.

So, ladies, what gives? How is it that we’ve all been brainwashed to believe that our looks are the only thing that matters, yet women are starting more businesses, earning more money and getting better educations than ever before.

Power puff girls

Peggy Orenstein argues in her book, "Cinderella Ate My Daughter" (Harper Collins, January, 2010), that girl culture and the Disney Princessification of girls is undermining their self-esteem, while turning them into narcissistic, beauty-obsessed brats.

I can’t say that she’s entirely wrong. I live with a five-year-old who has enough princess wands and fairy wings to outfit a small army of diminutive divas. Strangely, though, she wants to be a veterinarian. Or a dermatologist. Or a writer. She can’t decide. What she doesn’t want to be, though, is a princess, a wife or a mother.

Pink power, it appears, has convinced her that she can be whatever she wants – as long as she can do it in a pink tutu and a pair of rhinestone-studded sneakers.

Girls gone mild

Power and strength have always worked to mens’ advantage. Men who exude power, strength, and, even anger, get ahead. Tall men even earn more money. This reality is just accepted as the way of the world.

Women, on the other hand, are expected to check their femininity at the office door. We walk a fine line: Too high a heel or too short a skirt is grounds for being taken far less seriously than our bespoke male counterparts.

We’re caught between a proverbial rock and a red lipstick. Do we downplay our femininity in order to be taken seriously or do we imitate men in the name of political correctness?

The best of both worlds

I propose it is possible to be yourself and still command respect at work. Women are combining their own personal style with their drive and passion for their businesses.

For now, at least, the pendulum has settled somewhere between the early days of being the office “girl” and the power suits of the 1980s and 90s. Today’s women entrepreneurs and professionals are staking out a middle ground, demanding to be allowed the freedom to be themselves and to be taken seriously at the same time.

I say, work it, girl.

Jeanette Mulvey

Jeanette has been writing about business for more than 20 years. She has written about every kind of entrepreneur from hardware store owners to fashion designers. Previously she was a manager of internal communications for Home Depot. Her journalism career began in local newspapers. She has a degree in American Studies from Rutgers University. Follow her on Twitter @jeanettebnd.