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Snail Girl is the ‘girlboss’ anti-hero in workplace trends

By now, you’ve probably heard of the term “girlboss”, coined by Nasty Gal founder, Sophia Amoruso that encapsulated millennial working women’s appetite for ambition. 

But a decade later—and thanks to Gen Z workers who introduced Bare Minimum Mondays and Quiet Quitting to the working world—the girlboss era seems to be coming to its end. Now, its anti-hero—the “Snail Girl”—has already swept Australian workplaces and is gaining traction on TikTok. 

As the name suggests, “Snail Girls” are taking their work at a snail’s pace. 

“A snail girl takes her time and creates to create,” explained the Australian fashion designer Sienna Ludbey, founder of Hello Sisi, who came up with the concept. “She’s running her own race, and maybe that race isn’t going anywhere but home and back to bed.”

In a column published in the Australian magazine Fashion Journal on why she’s choosing to slow down and be happy rather than busy, Ludbey added that being a “snail girl” is not about stopping work completely, but rather not being so hard on yourself—and prioritizing work-life balance.

“Think of it as a time to put yourself first, set personal and professional boundaries and protect your peace,” she added.

Why a self-confessed ‘girl boss’ chooses to work at a snail’s pace

Ludbey came up with the idea after five years of being “consumed with being a girl boss” left its mark. 

Having quit her job in 2018 to focus on her online fashion store, she soon became “addicted” to constantly chasing success. But recently Ludbey said she started to see “cracks” in what she “once thought was everything”. 

It suddenly dawned on Ludbey that success no longer felt like the be-all and end-all—and as the overwhelming sparkle of her girl boss persona “dulled”, her inner “snail girl” was born.

“The next chapter means I’m slower and kinder to myself,” she explained.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, it didn’t take long before the concept of slowing down took off with multiple Australian outlets reporting on the rising popularity of the trend and TikTokers claiming it resonated with them.

“This girlboss is rolling over in her grave,” Maggie Zhou joked on TikTok. “Welcome to the snail girl era. I’m obsessed with this idea.”

“Snail girl eras can look different to different people, but at the crux of it, it’s about slowing down and being kinder to yourself,” Zhou added in a video that has now racked up over 35,000 views. 

“Been doing this a couple of months now!,” one TikTok user commented. “Hello to my fellow snail girl era!”

“Since the start of the year, I’ve quit being too hard on myself. I rest when needed and work depending on my capacity for the day,” another chimed.

Jennifer Luke, a researcher specializing in career development at the University of Southern Queensland, told ABC News that she’s not surprised by the “snail girl” concept taking off, as career ambitions have evolved since the pandemic.

“It all comes back to the fact that people are getting burnt out… They’re asking themselves, ‘I’m running myself into the ground, and I’m not actually sure why?’”

Is becoming a ‘snail girl’ bad for your career?

Although being a “snail” girl is the antidote to years of perpetually hustling under the influence of the “girlboss era”, it may not be the death knell to ambition.

“You can be both a girl boss and be kind to yourself in the way of the snail girl,” asserts Victoria McLean, CEO and founder of the career consultancy City CV and CEO of Hanover Talent Solutions. “These two approaches need not be mutually exclusive; in fact, combining them might offer you a more sustainable and fulfilling career.”

She tells Fortune that work-life balance is a vital aspect of a thriving career because it enables workers to be more productive, bring their best selves to work (and home), nurture healthier relationships and overall feel more fulfilled. 

“I’m a little cautious about embracing every new career trend, and I wouldn’t want the perception of this particular trend to be that you can take it easy at work or be lazy, but I do think slowing things down a little is a good way to prevent burnout and stress,” she adds. “That has to be good both for the employee and employer.”

Career coach Natalie Trice tells Fortune she’s observed a similar shift in her clients’ attitudes as businesswomen seek a more balanced way of life and finally take stock of their imposter syndrome. 

“This doesn’t diminish the ambitions of women; rather, it appreciates that work doesn’t have to be a constant battle to prove worthiness, especially to the detriment of everything else in life,” she says.

In a world where everything has become instant, Trice thinks it’s important to remember that a career is a marathon, not a sprint—we have around 50 years to climb the ladder, after all. 

“Slowing doesn’t mean the end of your career and dreams but that you need time for other things as well,” she adds. “As someone who has experienced burnout more than once in the relentless pursuit of reaching the next goal, I know only too well that finding the right balance is the real key to success.”

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