What do we mean by ‘Bossed Up?’

We first came across the term “bossed up” in this viral Nicki Minaj video in which the pop superstar bemoaned the challenges of having to be so many things to so many people at once: sexy, nice, talented, and herself!

Nicki got to the root of the issue with the following reflection:

“When I am assertive, I’m a bitch. When a man is assertive, he’s a boss. He bossed up. No negative connotation behind ‘bossed up,’ but lots of negative connotation behind being a bitch.”

We couldn’t empathize more with Ms. Minaj. Though we’re not pop stars, it’s easy to relate to her challenge of wearing so many hats at once – many of which require being assertive, confident and self-respectful. But those characteristics come with negative social consequences.

As we learned from Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In, women who are successful at work are deemed less likeable.Though these social pressures can be subtle, we internalize them and adjust our behavior as a result. We start ceasing to act like a boss to maintain our femininity, attractiveness, and general likeability.

We believe there is an alternative way – and it starts with getting Bossed Up and owning your power.

We must acknowledge that the term “Bossed Up” is rooted in the come-up story essential to hip hop, and indicative of the history of overcoming oppression that’s at the core of the struggle for equality that women and men of color have long faced in America.

We must honor this history while acknowledging the universal ways in which such a message resonates with marginalized groups held back by injustices everywhere. Getting Bossed Up is about owning your own power in the face of injustice, daring the rise up despite the obstacles unfairly presented before you.

I invite you to boss up with us together – by committing to treat yourself with respect, know your worth, and own your power over your own life and career.


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