The Mental Health Challenges of the Girlboss Culture

4 min read
Aiony Haust / Unsplash

Aiony Haust / Unsplash

The term girlboss celebrates women who dominate in their respective fields, symbolizing empowerment and breaking glass ceilings. However, given the lack of work-life balance being a girlboss entails, a new term has started to gain traction—the snail-girl era.

This emerging trend emphasizes a lifestyle that values tranquility, happiness, and self-care over relentless hustle and ambition. On the surface, it seems like a natural pendulum swing—a refreshing counter to the relentless grind of the girlboss. But a deeper examination reveals that this new trend, much like its predecessor, may be creating more problems than it is solving.

A 2022 paper published in Trends in Cognitive Science attempted to understand how the language we use when discussing gender can both combat and amplify biases. It highlighted the nuances between gender marking and gender neutrality, emphasizing the strengths and weaknesses inherent in both. Terms like girlboss and now snail girl don’t merely exist in a vacuum; they shape perceptions, influence conversations and subtly inform societal norms.

The appeal of a serene life that prioritizes well-being over work is universal, and anchoring it as a primarily female aspiration creates unnecessary disparities between genders. Such gendered framing, as the study suggests, can unintentionally perpetuate stereotypes, making women seem exceptional or atypical for wanting the same work-life balance that many men also desire.

Both men and women should have access to stress-free professions and the opportunity to lead personal lives marked by contentment. By gendering the narrative, we inadvertently set up the stage for further contention between genders when, in reality, stressful work environments have dire consequences for everyone.

A 2016 study published in Personnel Psychology dived deep into the impact of job demands and control on an individual’s health and mortality. It found that high job demands could potentially increase the odds of premature mortality by 15 percent.

Why Is the Trend So Popular Among Women in the First Place?

Initially, the girlboss movement painted a picture of empowerment through challenging roles. The narrative was that by taking charge, breaking barriers, and controlling one’s destiny, individuals, particularly women, would not only thrive professionally but also benefit personally and health-wise.

However, as time passed, hustle culture became synonymous with burnout, endless hours, and a blurring of personal and professional boundaries—facilitated, in part, by work-from-home arrangements that were common during (and after) the COVID-19 pandemic.

A 2018 study published in the Annals of Work Exposure and Health shows the gendered dynamics of burnout. Women, it revealed, are more susceptible to burnout than their male counterparts.

Furthermore, the study showed that while men often internalized or compartmentalized their work stresses, women were more likely to actively take on domestic roles as a coping mechanism. By immersing themselves in household (or self-care) tasks, they sought a sense of accomplishment and recovery from the high demands of their professional lives.

This proclivity for women to gravitate towards domestic responsibilities when burned out hints at deeper societal constructs and expectations. For many women, it’s not merely about seeking refuge from workplace stresses but also about conforming to societal norms that peg them as primary caregivers or homemakers.

This could explain why the snail girl era or the trend toward slower-paced jobs might resonate more with women than men. It offers an escape from the incessant demands of being a girlboss, allowing them to seek tranquility, self-care, and a better work-life balance, which, in the current context, seems more like a necessity than a luxury.


In our pursuit of progress and equality, it’s vital to understand that the core of our conversations should transcend gendered limitations. The goal isn’t to shift from one catchy hashtag to another, but to reframe our collective mindset, ensuring that aspirations and trends truly represent and resonate with all.

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