To all the “Bitches” out there in the workplace.

So, this topic’s not new but it is fresh on my mind. 

My closest friend called me the other day a little upset after having just found out that her nickname at work was “Elsa”. 

Why? Because she was considered as The Snow Queen and was regularly referred to as a “cold bitch”. 

I was upset for her… at first. 

Here’s the thing: 

  • Throughout university she worked two jobs, looked after her mother who was sick at the time and still managed to earn a First-Class Honours degree (equiv. 3.7-4.0).
  • In the past year she's been promoted twice at her company for increasing brand engagement by a whopping 34% and increasing sales by 26%.
  • She’s been headhunted time and time again throughout her career and I happen to think she has a heart of gold (but of course I would say that). 

Anyway, after we ended our call, it got me thinking about other conversations I’ve had. 

My older sister, who has turned around many underperforming branches at her job, has also been called a "bitch" by her co-workers. My younger sister - only 14 - is often called a “bossy girl” when she teaches dance at the weekend or a “bossy bitch” for telling her friends not to bully other girls. 

And then it got me thinking about Hermione Granger (you know, Harry Potter’s best friend). 

Now, for the record, I’m a huge Harry Potter, J.K. Rowling and Emma Watson fan. But I can’t help but want to ask J.K. Rowling, if she were to write the first Harry Potter book again, would she still describe Hermione as having a “bossy sort of voice”? 

Or, if Hermione’s character had been a boy, would she have used words like “brazen” or “commanding” instead?

Again, I’m a huge fan so please don’t mistake this as an attack on J.K. Rowling’s brilliant writing. I’m simply curious. 

Why? Globally, women make up only 24% of senior business roles yet I hear “my boss is such a bitch” far more than I ever hear “my boss is such an asshole.”

Would my friend be called "Elsa" or a "cold bitch" if she were a guy? I doubt it. 

They’d say he’s “a formidable leader” or “firm but fair” or “gets shit done”.

This isn't about excusing or encouraging bad behaviour - from women, men and others - and then calling it "leadership". But far too often we vilify women for the exact same qualities and behaviours that we praise men for.

It has to stop.

So, to all the “Bitches” out there in the workplace who are killing it, if you hear this word being used to describe you, I hope you hear the following instead: 

BOLD

INTELLIGENT

TENACIOUS

CHAMPION

HERO

Because that's likely what you'd be called if you were a guy.

Sam Struan

(Proud brother to two brazen sisters and best friend to a strong, formidable woman)