Ellen Hooper: Snail girl era could be the answer to boss girl burnout

Ellen Hooper
The Nightly
3 Min Read
If the ladies of Gen Z want to throw the girl boss out the window, it’s fair enough.
If the ladies of Gen Z want to throw the girl boss out the window, it’s fair enough. Credit: stokkete - stock.adobe.com

There’s a time in your life where technology and social trends start to take over at a faster rate than you can keep up with. For me, it happened with the advent of Snapchat (which was 2011 for those playing along). It was a piece of tech that I only vaguely understood and knew wasn’t meant for me.

Nowadays, the social trends are incubated on another tech platform that’s over my head — TikTok. Apparently, over there, the latest career craze sweeping through the ranks of young women is the “snail girl era”.

The snail girl era manifesto (kicked off by Sienna Ludbey in an article for the Fashion Journal) is, “The snail girl goes slow, retreats when she needs and follows the path at her own pace.”

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I think I can roughly translate this as, resisting the hustle and bustle of corporate and start-up culture and finding peace at going your own pace.

For decades we’ve been told that success means working harder, and longer — and as a result we’re burning out in record numbers.

I know they get slack for being the lazy generation, but as an HR expert and career coach, the snail girl era has some merit. Its goals accurately describe a solution to the tensions that many executives I work with are trying to resolve.

This phenomenon is not isolated to one or two people. The University of Melbourne’s 2023 State of the Future of Work Report, released earlier this year, found that “prime aged workers” (between 25 and 55) were in poorer physical and mental health since the pandemic began and one third had considered quitting.

I’m not surprised that young workers are watching us looking frazzled and frantic and thinking they’ll take a hard pass at whatever path has led to the dark circles under our eyes.

Spice Girls
Spice Girls Credit: Spice Girls

I was raised in the Spice Girls generation, where girl power energy led to a cohort of overachievers striving for the dream of being a “girl boss”. For decades we’ve been told that success means working harder, and longer — and as a result we’re burning out in record numbers.

If the ladies of Gen Z want to throw the girl boss out the window, it’s fair enough. The Gallup Institute just released new data on hybrid work that found that even though women are more engaged than men in general, they experience significantly higher levels of stress and burnout than their male counterparts, no matter their work location.

It turns out that being female is relentless. There are the mums, who statistically do 15 hours more housework a week than their male partners. And the female workers, who on average earn 87 cents for every $1 earned by a man. Shockingly and heartbreakingly, as thanks for raising us, women over 55 are the fastest growing cohort of homeless Australians.

So, it appears working hard and playing by the rules hasn’t resulted in progress that’s sufficiently fair or fast. No wonder we’re all exhausted.

It’s likely a change of pace that’s needed by all of us, regardless of gender. Finding a pace that works for you and defining your own goals are the exact conversations I often have with clients (of all genders) in my executive coaching practice.

A great place to start is identifying your core values and being clear about your top two priorities each week to make it easier not to get sucked into the doom spiral of being “busy”.

I, for one, am going to focus on practicing what I preach, so if anyone needs me, I’ll be over here taking a nap.

Ellen Hooper is a people and culture expert and executive coach.

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