Girl boss” is a term popularized to describe empowered and ambitious women, often associated with entrepreneurship and self-confidence. Ushered in by Sophia Amoruso, it is a buzzword that defines the ambitions of millennial women. But now, there seems to be a shift in this societal trend. The girl boss is no longer regarded as a feminist emblem. Gen Z is transitioning to the “snail girl” era — a social media trend in which women value a calmer life of happiness and self-care above hustle culture and overworking.

The ‘snail girl era’ is here and it’s encouraging young women to live a slower, more relaxed life. This transition occurs as the ‘girl boss’ identity is being questioned. Young people are increasingly doubting the value of devoting their lives to business achievement as a result of office burnout. The trend took off on TikTok. The term “snail girl” was coined by Sienna Ludbey in an article for Fashion Journal in September titled “‘Snail girl era’: Why I’m slowing down and choosing to be happy rather than busy.”

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Sienna’s Snail Girl Era

Sienna is a designer and founder of a shop called Hello Sisi where she sells handcrafted bags and accessories. “Hot take for the week, my inner girl boss is dead and my ‘snail girl’ era has begun,” Ludbey wrote in the article. She explained that as a “girl boss,” she felt constant pressure “to be perceived as successful” and appear booked and busy.

However, after the pandemic, she started to realize that a purposeful life isn’t always linked to success. Breaking down what a snail girl does, she said, “A snail girl takes her time and creates to create. The speed at which everything is put out into the world is just getting faster, but she doesn’t care. She’s running her own race, and maybe that race isn’t going anywhere but home and back to bed.”

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The Shift

Award-winning academic and Netflix’s former Director of Diversity and Inclusion, Michelle P. King remarked that the ‘girl boss’ is similar to Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In’ concept. He said “Both are built on the idea that women need to change or fix themselves to align and compete with men at work. These ideas are inherently misogynistic because by telling women they need to do more or be more to advance at work, we are in fact telling them that they are not good enough to start with.”

The concept of the “girl boss” has come under scrutiny recently, as younger individuals are experiencing work-related burnout and questioning the value of dedicating their lives solely to career success. Gen Z is rejecting the girl boss trope and turning to other solutions to find fulfillment. One example is the “lazy girl jobs” trend on TikTok, which encourages women to seek happiness and contentment beyond their professional lives by opting for low-effort jobs with good compensation.

The TikTok Phenomenon

The snail girl era has been taking off on TikTok like the ‘lazy girl jobs’ trend ever since Fashion Journal shared Sienna Ludbey’s article on the platform in a video that racked up over 32,000 views. “The girl boss is rolling over in her grave, welcome to the snail girl era,” said Maggie Zhou, the magazine’s features editor, in the video. Inspired by the video, TikTokers are creating their own snail girl videos where they share their relaxing morning routines or aesthetic images of their lifestyle including walks in nature, sipping their cups of tea, sharing their skincare routines, and more.

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Understanding Gen Z

The snail girl trend is another example of employees wanting to push back on hustle culture or toxic workplace cultures that encourage working long hours, always being on and putting up with poor managers,” added Michelle P. King. According to Suzy Welch, a professor at New York University’s Stern School of Business, the root cause of the snail girl trend is Gen Z’s pervasive aversion to anxiety. The older generations understood that anxiety is part and parcel of life at work. “With Gen Z, anxiety is at the center of almost every decision, and there is, I have observed, a strong desire to design lives that don’t face head into it, but take the way around it,” she said.

As a result, Gen Z has become disinterested in the idea of being a girl boss because it’s harder than it looks. Being a boss of any gender is not the same as the glamorous ‘girl boss’ life portrayed on social media. Sure, there are fabulous moments when everything is clicking, but being a boss is mainly a grind. This entails responsibilities like managing finances, retaining clients, addressing operational challenges, dealing with interpersonal issues among staff, and coping with setbacks such as an unsuccessful advertising campaign or an increase in rent costs.

This is the reality of leading from a position of authority, which was not exactly a fit with the girl boss schtick of “Watch me rule the world in my Manolos!” Although choosing the snail girl lifestyle may be more gratifying, it could result in financial or other professional consequences further down the road. Suzy Welch added. “We can be pretty sure that it will not be a career accelerator for those who choose it, but I think most of them know that. That will, of course, have financial consequences, and we may see in five years that a whole group of self-chosen ‘snails’ decide to become ‘roadracers’ when they find their trade-offs need to be calibrated.”

What would you prefer – Girl Bossing or Snail Girling?