How to Be the Ultimate Girl’s Girl at the Office

It'’s time to celebrate and cultivate the unique bond among women in the workplace.

Written by Ellen Taaffe
Published on Mar. 12, 2024
How to Be the Ultimate Girl’s Girl at the Office
Image: Shutterstock / Built In
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Using the term “girl” to describe a woman at work was once thought to be a put down of her credibility or stature. She is, after all, a grown woman with expertise and experience – why would anyone call her a girl?

What Is a Girl’s Girl?

The Urban Dictionary defines a girl’s girl as a woman who has respect for female etiquette, is not petty and strives to be ethical and decent in her dealings with her female friends.

Today, women proudly embrace this term and the girl power it evokes. To be called a “girl’s girl” by one’s peers may in fact be the ultimate compliment. 

So far, the discourse around the concept of the girl’s girl is focused on non-workplace contexts. There are, for example, 1.3 billion views of Tik Tok videos highlighting the do’s and don’ts of being a girl’s girl in social settings, as roommates and in interactions with men – but far fewer about how to do so in the office. 

It’s time we extend this discussion to the workplace. Here are three ways to become the ultimate girl’s girl at work.

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Cultivate Connection and Community

Be the catalyst. A girl’s girl develops and cultivates relationships with meaning and impact. Research shows the most successful women have a tight knit group of women with whom they share experiences and knowledge. 

If you don’t have a group like this in your corner, you’re not alone. I coach the women in my MBA Women’s Leadership Seminar series at the Kellogg School of Management to develop their own personal board of directors — a group of colleagues who care enough about you to speak candidly and provide advice about opportunities, challenges, and what is the next best stop on your way to the future. 

Go first. A girl’s girl builds connection quickly by being vulnerable first. In doing so, she creates a safe space for others to be honest and transparent. While this sort of connection-building can feel natural in social contexts, sometimes it’s harder to do in work environments if we tend to think of networking as disingenuous and manipulative. 

Building community with others in a safe way, within your company, can create a reciprocal foundation that makes it easier to ask and give help, leverage others’ knowledge and share your wisdom while building the networking muscle that will benefit you throughout your career. 

Mentor and model the way. A girl’s girl knows that inspiration can come from mentors, community and shared stories that can build ambition, resolve and resilience. They frequently create or lead mentoring circles and participate in employee resource groups within their workplaces or industry. Everyone needs guidance when facing challenging times. Light the path for other women by championing formal and informal mentoring opportunities and encouraging their participation. 

 

Champion with Compassion and Candor

Communicate with care. A girl’s girl nurtures and advances other women with kindness, compassion and generosity. She believes in her female colleagues and reminds them how they earned and why they deserve their seat at the table. She clues others into the culture and helps them understand what it takes to navigate the organization and career path. When she sees another doubt herself or the future, she reminds them who they are, the potential they have and the value they add. 

Welcome and include. A girl’s girl intentionally creates a diverse and inclusive network. She connects with people who have different experiences and backgrounds to expand her thinking and broaden others’ belonging. She relishes both commonalities and differences with the understanding that women are not a monolith and should stand in their uniqueness. 

Tap into courage. A girl’s girl wants the best for her female colleagues. She understands that feedback for women can be vague and subjective. She cares enough to be candid and raise issues that can be difficult but have high stakes. She inspires and encourages other women to find their voice, step into their power and potential, and at times, get out of their own way. She sees others at their best and strives to help them get there and thrive. 

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Advocate and Advance

Amplify others’ voices. A girl’s girl knows that when we amplify the voice and value of one woman, we do it for all women. In meetings, she is sure to come back to a point that a woman had raised earlier but that hadn’t gained traction. She credits another’s opinions when they were usurped by the men in the room. She reinforces others’ expertise in handling new initiatives. When she sees a high performing woman hesitate to apply for a new role, thinking that perhaps she isn’t worthy or ready, she encourages her by asking “why not you?”

Banish the bias (and the BS). Girl’s girls understand the historical reality that in many places, there was only one seat for a woman and that systemic bias created a queen bee dynamic. 

When they see remnants of that, or mean girl behavior, they give it no oxygen. They ditch drama as they recognize and harness women’s collective strength in an organization. They artfully call out BS when they see it and dismantle language and stereotypes that limit women and other marginalized people. They recognize that men may not know how best to support women and enroll them into taking actions to make a better workplace. 

Change the system. Girl’s girls let go of the myth that another woman’s success means that they necessarily lose. They develop themselves and others to attain more leadership positions and to become changemakers. They value and assume the best of their male colleagues, knowing that they are navigating a changing social construct too. They believe that there is space for everyone, not simply a zero-sum game. This guides their actions as they strive to ensure a diversity of people at all levels.

I used to think that going it alone at work was a sign of strength. The reality is, we need others to help us make our way forward. If you take up the mantle of the ultimate girl’s girl in the office, you just might find that the woman sitting in the cubicle or Zoom square next to you becomes your greatest ally, too.

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