Urban dictionary defines a “Boss Lady” as “THE woman who is in control. People see her and instantly feel the need to respect her and do. Runs the show, is cool, and collected and gets the job done. Confident, never looks down. Demands respect and gets it.”
I love the term Boss Lady because I think women have a unique way of navigating the workplace and while I am comfortable being known as simply the “Boss” I understand (and celebrate!) that my femininity (and how I opt to express it) impacts my communication style and leadership.
I enjoy being around other Boss Ladies, and I have found that they are some of the most resilient, creative and determined people I have ever met. They are juggling multiple roles within their work and professional lives and often share (with humor and grace) their strategies for living life like a boss while sometimes owning that they walk out of the door with two different shoes, or with baby spit-up in their hair. They are not easily rattled and often inspire the people around them to find the bright spot in even the darkest time.
I have a history of bringing together fantastic women whether it be through my work with the NASPA Women’s Student Affairs (WISA) Knowledge Community, as President of the DePaul Women’s Network, or by coordinating many, many, “ladies lunches” in various cities where I have lived all around the country.
I didn’t know any Boss Ladies when I first moved to NYC, but it didn’t take long to meet them. When my friend (and total Boss Lady) Sumi Pendakur introduced me via email to her fabulous colleague Adriana di Bartolo, who was leaving California to move to New York to be the new Dean of Students at Vassar College, I found myself thinking about what a blessing it is to be surrounded by powerful, positive, women—and how hard it is to be new. I decided to create a small dinner to welcome her and introduce her to a couple of like-minded women.
Well, that small dinner because a full-scale party for 12, complete with a seating chart and gift bags! Boss Ladies wanted to invite other Boss Ladies to the table because they recognize that they need each other—and that being around other amazing women is SO good for their soul.
When I was doing my dissertation research on ten female college presidents a common theme emerged about the loneliness of leadership. “At the end of the day, it’s just you, alone in a room, having to make the tough, sometimes life-altering decision, “one president said. Moments like that necessitate support and community which is so critical to taking care of yourself. If I have a bad day at work, who can I really talk to? I supervise everyone! Therefore, it is necessary to have a strong community of leaders who can not only sympathize, but empathize with your challenges, be a thoughtful listening ear, and help you create strategies for moving forward.
Our first #BossLady dinner in NYC was a complete success! Thanks so much to the amazing women who made time in their day to come to dinner, spent hours connecting, laughing, and eating—it was truly a special night! We are all set for our #BossLady 2.0 dinner on October 21st and I hope that if you are reading this, you will consider organizing a dinner in your geographic area either on that day or sometime this fall. When we posted pictures of our dinner, so many people were supportive and echoed the sentiment that they would love to have something like this in their community.
Who could benefit by bringing communities of women together? The answer? Everyone. Everyone wins. One look on the faces of these women confirms that.