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Could ‘lazy girl jobs’ spell a step back for gender equality?

If you’ve not heard about the job market’s latest controversial topic, take a look through our previous article: ‘Lazy girl jobs’: Why a TikTok trend captivated millions of viewers.

At its core, the message of ‘lazy girl jobs’ was intended to prioritise work-life balance in the current economic climate. However, as millions of viewers tune in, some critics have deemed the trend elitist and privileged, warning it may also open young workers up to redundancy.

As more users document their own ‘lazy girl jobs’ in attempts to go viral, the trends creator, Gabrielle Judge has also recently warned her audience of the consequences they may face by publishing their work – or lack thereof, online.

We’ll examine the impact of social media trends on gender equality in the workplace – and explore whether ‘lazy girl jobs’ highlight a divide between internet culture and the reality of employment for underprivileged groups.

‘Lazy girl jobs’, ‘girlbosses’ and the infantilisation of working women. 

In the UK, working women have been undervalued by the gender pay gap for 54 years. While awareness campaigns strive to eliminate workplace bias and maternity discrimination, could trends such as the ‘lazy girl job’ unintentionally slow this progress further? 

The ironic use of the word ‘lazy’ is a play on toxic corporate workplace expectations, as highlighted by Judge. However, while the ethos of ‘lazy girl jobs’ can be applied across all genders and identities, the inclusion of the word ‘girl’ may be unintentionally loaded in its impact.

Judge’s content often goes hand-in-hand with her feminist beliefs. Therefore, it’s likely that the use of ‘girl’ is intended here as an evolution of the millennial ‘girl boss’ trend, which conflated overwork with female empowerment. ‘Lazy girl jobs’ are the anti-work opposition to this, with Judge herself using the handle @antiworkgirlboss on Instagram.

However, the label of ‘girl’ brings the real potential to devalue female employees in the workplace. In a 2020 article for Refinery 29, Vicky Spratt denounced the ‘girl boss’ movement, stating:

“…this word is a sexist Trojan horse. It appears to raise women up, to carve out space for us in a working world still too crowded with men and purports to offer us a bit of the boardroom we can call our own. But in reality, it denies us agency, it diminishes us and denigrates our authority. A girl is a young woman – to suggest that a female worker or leader is a #girlboss directly infantilises her.”

Rather than a fad, labels such as these can become embedded in modern culture if they have a catchy name and a message that resonates with a large audience. In August 2023, data from Resume Builder revealed that 70% of survey respondents identified themselves as a ‘girl boss.’ When asked their reasons, one replied: “I want to show my daughters a role model.”

As working women continue to identify with emerging social media trends in the name of female empowerment, a pattern is emerging where a communication breakdown soon leads these labels to also represent negative perceptions of female colleagues.

Following its adoption by problematic entrepreneurs and faux-positive influencers, the ‘girlboss’ label eventually became synonymous with the extended gaslight, gatekeep, girlboss.”

Despite aiming to represent the antithesis of ‘girlboss’ culture, ‘lazy girl jobs’ are also now experiencing a shift in perception – in a much shorter time frame. Recently, the trend was described as a “much more blatant and, to be frank, manipulative” form of ‘quiet quitting’ by the New York Post.

Are ‘quiet quitting’ and ‘lazy girl jobs’ tied to privilege?

As stated by Judge, a key factor of a ‘lazy girl job’ is essentially that it can be ‘quiet quit’. This aspect has now become a focal point for criticism and discussions around workplace privilege.

In a recent interview with the Business Insider, Brooks E. Scott, a career coach for Instagram and Netflix among other powerhouses, highlighted that ‘quiet quitting’ is a “different experience for people from underrepresented groups,” who “are already working twice as hard and twice as long as people in majority groups have to do.”

In a market where unconscious bias – and in the worst case, active discrimination, still impacts many workers’ careers, Scott highlights that those in these demographics do not “have the luxury of just sitting back and flying under the radar.”

A similar perspective was highlighted back in 2022, before the creation of the trend, by Tayo Bero for The Guardian, where she stated:

“The freedom to dial back your investment at work and not worry about the security of your job is a privilege in itself, and one that many people from marginalized identities don’t feel they can enjoy, even as work cultures shift.”

Judge’s perspective on privilege

On TikTok, Judge recently responded to criticisms of her privilege. As summarised by Dow Jones for Market Watch:

“I just got asked in this, like, ‘gotcha’ journalism way if I feel ‘lazy-girl jobs’ are a privilege of the middle class, which is the most ignorant thing I’ve ever heard. (…) It’s work-life balance — being a bit more discerning about, hey, where is my time going, and why am I working so hard for nothing in return?”

Previously working 50-to-60 hour weeks as a consultant,” her ‘lazy girl’ mantra was a response to her experience of traditional overworking cultures. Following this, Judge reports that she now makes $20k (approx £15.7k) a month as an independent TikTok content creator. Her established career has featured numerous roles that are well-suited to benefits such as working remotely, flexible hours and a self-set workload.

The barrier to entry for these types of roles still remains a challenge for many in underprivileged demographics. Likewise, her ‘lazy girl’ mentality would be harder to apply to a career in education or healthcare – the UK sectors with the most women in the workplace throughout 2022. 

Worker perspectives: What employers can learn from this trend

In a July Dazed article, Serena Smith explored how roles described as ‘lazy girl jobs’ may have negative impacts in the long term. Citing a 2021 study by the British Sociological Association, Smith summarises that the research found “workers who believed their jobs were pointless largely suffered from higher rates of depression and anxiety.”

These results suggest that workers in ‘lazy girl jobs’ may be more prone to a lack of emotional satisfaction and limited feelings of personal achievement. Ironically, feelings such as these can contribute to burnout – one of the initial issues that the trend sought to solve.

Rather than actively seeking roles with little commitment, studies like this show that many employees would rather be engaged and passionate about their work. Popular social media trends such as this can therefore provide valuable insight for businesses. By gaining such a rapid following, this trend shows that there is a high demand amongst workers for a better work-life balance, in cultures where they feel valued and respected.

By having perks that provide a healthy balance, businesses can not only retain their current staff – but also effectively appeal to the next era of Gen Z workers. Through hybrid and remote schedules, flexitime and improved autonomy, employers can keep their teams engaged and enthusiastic to perform well in their roles, whilst still allowing the space to enjoy personal life outside the office.

If you’re currently in a culture where overwork and burnout are rife, contact us today to discuss how we can help to find your ideal next move.


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