Nasty Gal founder and CEO Sophia Amoruso. Reuters/Mario Anzuoni
Sophia Amoruso and Sheryl Sandberg are both powerful female executives who encourage young women to place utmost importance on their professional lives, but that’s about the extent of their similarities.
Amoruso, the 30-year-old founder and CEO of online fashion retailer Nasty Gal, has turned her company into a $100 million business since starting it in 2006, and has a new memoir/advice book out, complete with all-caps and Twitter hashtag, “#GIRLBOSS.”
Unlike Sandberg, Amoruso doesn’t have degrees from elite schools and a resume that lists Google and Facebook.
Instead, she had to finish high school by home schooling due to ADD and a lack of interest. She describes herself as a “crust punk” at 17 and lists her attempt at stealing a George Foreman grill and reading “Starting an eBay Business For Dummies” as pivotal moments in her career. The tastemaker also prefers eclectic thrift outfits to formal wear and pantsuits, and regularly swears and uses Internet slang in conversation.
“Lean In” got a public endorsement from Oprah Winfrey. “#GIRLBOSS” got an endorsement from “Girls” creator Lena Dunham on Instagram.
For those young women who may be turned off by Sandberg’s corporate image or are uncomfortable with the demands of her “Ban Bossy” campaign, Amoruso provides an alternative. Her feminism is rooted in the rebelliousness of punk rock but with all the seriousness of a CEO. In fact, Amoruso told New York magazine she thinks it’s okay to call women “bossy,” and on top of that, to call women “girls” if you want to, because why can’t empowerment be fun?
It’s her unpolished brand of feminism that makes Amoruso stand out as a different kind of role model for millennial women: a woman who can be comfortable with herself — in whatever form that may be. As she writes in her book’s first chapter:
Is 2014 a new era of feminism where we don’t have to talk about it? I don’t know, but I want to pretend it is. I’m not going to lie — it’s insulting to be praised for being a woman with no college degree. But then, I’m aware that this is also to my advantage: I can show up to a meeting and blow people away just by being my street-educated self. I, along with countless other #GIRLBOSSes who are profiled in this book, girls who are reading this book, and the girls who are yet to become a #GIRLBOSS will not do it by whining — but by fighting. You don’t get taken seriously by asking someone to take you seriously. You’ve got to show up and own it. If this is a man’s world, who cares? I’m still really glad to be a girl in it.
#GIRLBOSS chronicles Amoruso’s incredible success story and also includes primers for young women just entering the workplace, such as interviewing dos and don’ts and how to handle yourself in the office.
Molly Young argues in New York that “it’s easy to get the sense, reading “Lean In,” that Sandberg is writing for women who’ve already made it. ‘#GIRLBOSS’ is for those who haven’t, which means it is aimed at people who have nothing to lose, which makes it a much riskier and more enjoyable manifesto.”
Amoruso’s book is a different vessel for a lot of the same advice for professional women that Sandberg offers in hers, but it’s arguably cooler, more interesting, and more appealing to a new generation of women who don’t need or want to act like men to get ahead. The differences in approach is evident even in the books’ covers: