Chief co-founders Carolyn Childers and Lindsay Kaplan started the company because they had experienced firsthand being women executives without a ton of support. They created a community of female leaders that is now 20,000 strong, with 60,000 sitting on waitlists, but just don’t call these women “girl bosses.”
The two women appeared at TechCrunch Disrupt today in San Francisco.
Kaplan asked the audience how many men call themselves “boy bosses.” Nobody raised their hand.
“We don’t use the phrase ‘boy boss.’ We only use the phrase ‘girl boss’ because we’ve put women in another category instead of just assuming that a woman can be a leader. And so I don’t like the phrase because of that. I don’t like thinking about women in leadership. It’s just leadership,” Kaplan told the Disrupt audience.
She added, “How can we celebrate women, not tear them down, not infantilize what it is to be a woman leader by calling them a ‘girl boss’ and truly make sure that women can lead and do it in their own way.”
The three-year-old startup has grown from a 200-person group in NYC to a 20,000-strong organization that has raised $140 million on a $1 billion valuation.
Yet they have another 60,000 women who want to join. Kaplan stresses that giving its members a highly curated and valuable experience is more important than growing too fast and losing their value proposition.
“The member experience is most important. So when you ask about growth, when we think about how we’ve only scratched the surface of 5 million women [executives] in the U.S., it is so critical for us to make sure that members are really loving their experience,” she said.
It all comes back to the mission, which was born in personal experience, says Childers.
“When I started to get in the room where decisions were happening, and I realized that there were differences in the way that conversations were running for different people within the organization, that was just a really eye-opening thing for me,” she said. She decided creating a network of like-minded women could be incredibly helpful.
This week the company opened what they call “a clubhouse” in San Francisco, a place for women to meet in person. They have three others in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. In addition, they expanded outside the U.S into the U.K. for the first time.