There’s been a lot of buzz about “bossy” women these past few months. Launched by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg paired with the likes of Condoleezza Rice, Jane Lynch and Beyoncé, the Ban Bossy campaign has garnered reactions from hostile rants to devoted pledges to nix the word from the name-calling lexicon.
The concern is that there aren’t enough females in executive positions. That by calling little girls bossy, we are discouraging them from embracing qualities that make effective future leaders. And that young men are typically applauded for assertive actions, while girls are subjected to negative labels for taking the same initiative.
In reaction to this and other disparities, these female celebrities, executives and political figures formed Lean In, an organization whose purpose is to empower women. Shortly after posting, their Ban Bossy video went viral.
After watching it, I struggled to recall a time when being called bossy was a disheartening blow to my dictatorial nature. After all, who doesn’t want to be lumped in with these powerful public figures declaring that their childhoods were plagued with chides? But, to be honest, I could only remember my typical reaction to such slander: fold arms, chin up, close eyes, extend tongue.
It’s possible the women in the video had similar reactions, as being called bossy doesn’t seem to have hindered their success. And while I’m no world leader (except maybe in the eyes of my son), it has hardly hampered my success either. The same qualities that landed me that label gave me courage to pursue my interests and adopt a leadership role at work as well as at home. It has given my female colleagues the drive to start new businesses and fellow moms the mettle to raise respectable children.
Of course, we should check our behavior and that of our kids if we are exemplifying the more unappealing aspects of the word. Whether you’re a boy or a girl, a man or a woman, being officious is never appreciated. But otherwise, it seems bossy isn’t so bad.
So, though it’s doubtful the expression’s expulsion is the most effective means of encouraging leadership in young women, there’s still something to be admired in the spirit of the campaign. If nothing else, it spotlights an enduring double standard where authoritative men are routinely respected while women with the same qualities are too often regarded as another B-word. You know the one.
To discard such gender stereotypes, perhaps we, as parents, could motivate our boys and girls by asking for their opinions and emphasizing positive aspects of leadership. Teach them to respect leaders no matter their gender or background and push them to take on a little more responsibility and initiative, even if it means we have to get a bit bossy to do it.
Be the boss
In what way have you encouraged your kids to lead?