Gen Xers, I urge you to follow these five women on social media for a daily dose of feminine exuberance and affirmation. Not only will you be inspired and entertained, but you can bask in some of the gains our culture has made in enabling young women to step into their power. While these gains are often made through the back door of social media (rather than, for example, actual pay equity), the impact that these women make and have yet to make is undeniable. Not an exhaustive list, this is a personal short list of young women whom I’ve found inspiration from.
Elaine Welteroth: Former editor-in-chief at Teen Vogue
- Why she’s amazing: Ms. Welteroth was promoted to editor-in-chief at Teen Vogue at the tender age of 29, and used her position to expand the publication’s articles in the areas of politics, women’s rights and social justice. In 2016 under Ms. Welteroth’s leadership, Lauren Duca’s Op-Ed piece “Donald Trump Is Gaslighting America” caught national attention as America, and the world questioned the veracity of the election results. She’s currently penning a book.
- Why I love her: I can’t help but love this woke fashionista, who posts with equal fervor on topics like street style, independent designers, female empowerment and social justice.
Whitney Wolfe Herd: CEO and Founder of Bumble
- Why she’s amazing: At 29, Ms. Wolfe Herd is front and center of the leading dating app that puts women in charge and is valued at $250 Million. Bumble has also just launched an investment fund specifically for women founders.
- Why I love her: Ms. Herd is expanding her brand to become the voice of fierce, ambitious and feminine women. Not since the Enjoli TV commercials of the 1980s has there been such a bold expression from a brand that feminine drive is sexy.
Cleo Wade: Poet, Author and Activist
- Why she’s amazing: Since its release in early 2018 Wade’s hand penned book, Heart Talk: Poetic Wisdom for a Better Life has many calling this 28 year old the “Millennial Oprah”.
- Why I love her: Cleo is a shining beacon of love and compassion in a world full of division and hate. She’s also the BFF of Elaine Welteroth, and who can’t love a duo of superfriends?
Rupi Kaur: Poet, Author and Activist
- Why she’s amazing: The daughter of Sikh immigrants, Ms. Kaur is age 25. Her poetry and prose on being a woman is vulnerable, raw and fierce. Punctuated by her hand drawn illustrations, she pens beautiful reflections on the complexities of femininity within a patriarchal society.
- Why I love her: In great art we recognize ourselves and see our pain. It makes us feel less alone. Besides that, Rupi always manages to wear the most fierce and exquisite gowns to all of her readings.
Sophia Amoruso: Entrepreneur, Media Mogul
- Why she’s amazing: Now 34, at 22 Amoruso founded a vintage clothing store on eBay which was later listed as one of the fastest growing companies by Inc. Magazine in 2012. By 2016, she was named one of the richest self-made women in Forbes magazine. Since then she’s gone on to start her own media company, Girlboss, with the goal of educating and supporting ambitious female entrepreneurs.
- Why I love her: Honestly, she’s the ballsy girlboss I always wanted to be but never had the courage to become. I admire her bravado. Sophia’s media outlet, Girlboss, is chock full of smart, empowering content.
These Beautiful Women Are the Next Generation of Feminism
If you were born before 1980 and are female, you probably were raised to fit into a certain mold. When you went to the guidance counselor in high school, 9 times out of 10 the career tests probably told you to become a teacher or a secretary, regardless of the fact that you aced chem or were class president. You were raised to be modest, mind the rules, be either pretty or smart (not both) and never question authority or the status quo. Sure, many of us were raised by feminists but ultimately we were all products of the age.
Enter the next generation, the Millennials. Many call them “entitled” but, the essence of the word entitlement is the confidence to make claim of what’s earned or owed.
Women in Generation X were not raised to be leaders and therefore have often suffered from imposter syndrome. In fact, recently in my Tech Women’s Facebook group, when one woman asked “what is the opposite of imposter syndrome” no one could come up with an answer. The answer was so out of reach to these Generation X professionals because we were not raised to to have the true confidence to succeed. According to an often cited HP internal report, men on average, tend to apply for jobs meeting only 60% of job requirements, while women will wait until they meet 100% of the qualifications. So the connection I’m making here for all the women in the room is that the opposite of imposter syndrome is, in fact, entitlement.
So I’ll offer that the main beef Generation X has with Millenials, this awful sense of entitlement, is actually a Millennial superpower, especially for women. In essence, entitlement could be defined as Robert H. Schuller’s quote: “What would you do if you knew you could not fail?”
“…entitlement, is actually a Millennial superpower, especially for women.”
Of course, it’s not all that simple...attitude isn’t everything. Smarts- business, IQ and EQ always come into play. Social media and the internet continue to democratize both business and ideas… in this era, the products, personalities and views that resonate will continue to rise to the top regardless of skin color or gender.
Each of these five women are fierce feminists, truly the next wave. They understand intersectional feminism, will get their hands dirty to protest, but still embrace wearing makeup, heels and couture. They are all beautiful and brilliant women, and they make no apologies for taking up space. They use their influence to support other women and girls. And best of all, they are unabashedly themselves.
There are countless other amazing women out there, each a product of her generation. It has certainly not been a smooth road for ambitious American women. In the past ambitious women had generally followed the male template: dress masculine or don’t call attention to one’s clothing, forgo women’s interests lest one not be taken seriously. Minimizing the feminine (or playing into stereotypes) would allow the space for one’s voice to be heard. Smart not pretty, pretty not smart. By contrast, rather than eschew the feminine these Millennial women have the confidence to not only outwardly embrace the complexities of being female, but to draw their power from it. Maybe, over time, our society is slowly starting to allow women to hold the space to be themselves.
‘Our wisdom does not just come from what we learn. It also comes from what we unlearn.’ — Cleo Wade
Perhaps I didn’t have the father to teach me to argue and fight back. Perhaps I was never allowed to be proud or cocky, or to win. Perhaps I was told repeatedly that I wasn’t pretty enough or smart enough, told not to draw attention to myself. Perhaps I was taught to always raise my hand to speak. Or perhaps I was simply expected to fail and aim low. I know those expectations never needed to define me, but seeing these Millennial women excel and challenge the status quo makes me wonder how much the cultural programming of my youth has held me back. And I think— I wonder, what could I have done if I’d seen women like these around me, 20-30 years ago? I wonder what more I could have done, what I would have done, if I knew I could not fail?
Clearly it’s time for me to unlearn and unpack the teachings of my youth, to deprogram. And I’m giving a heartfelt thanks to this next generation of fierce women for leading the way, revealing that when a woman lays claim to her space to be her unabashed, brilliant, and beautiful self, amazing things start to happen.
What do you think? Is entitlement a Millennial woman’s superpower?