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Ban Bossy: Encouraging Girls to Take Charge

Ban Bossy: Encouraging Girls to Take Charge

Ever wonder why it is that “take charge” boys grow up to be men who become bosses, while “take charge” girls grow up to be women who become “bossy,” or worse? It’s the question at the core of a new public service campaign spearheaded by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and CEO of Girl Scouts of the USA Anna Maria Chavez. Their campaign, Ban Bossy, is aimed at encouraging leadership in young girls, and I could not be more behind the effort.

As a woman, and a working woman at that, it is incredibly frustrating to live in a society that reveres men like Steve Jobs for his innovation, brilliance, creativity and leadership (did you know they’re thinking of putting him on a stamp?) while keeping his abrasiveness and nearly tyrannical leadership style a footnote. And at the same time, women leaders from Margaret Thatcher to Marissa Mayer to Hillary Clinton are often defined first for being “bossy” or “*itchy” before we begin to examine their actual leadership accomplishments.

And girls are keenly aware of this at a young age. My daughter isn’t much of a leader. She isn’t exactly a wallflower, but even her teachers note that her confidence levels fall behind her abilities. I work with her to “be bold.” That’s what I call it with her. I want her to be bold, to be brave. I want her to make her voice heard. I don’t want her missing out on what she deserves in life just because she wasn’t willing to claim it. But when I ask her sometimes why she didn’t stand up for what she wanted in a particular situation, she’ll tell me she didn’t want to make someone else feel bad. Or she was afraid of being put down by a friend. And I can translate that into: she didn’t want to “be bossy” or be “perceived as being bossy.” And this lingers in life so much longer for girls than it does for boys.

So I’m behind the campaign. Be Bold. Be Brave. Ban Bossy.



  1. Kris-Ann_ Progressive Mom March 11, 2014 at 10:01 am

    I’ve been hearing a lot about this campaign and I can’t help but wonder…aren’t some people actually bossy though? What I mean is, there are people who stand up for what they think is right, but the way they express that is not kind or thoughtful. All kids, girls and boys alike should be taught to stand up for what they want and think is right, but the lesson on how to do that in a way that gets them heard but doesn’t belittle someone else should go hand in hand. There are people who are good thought leaders and people who are good people leaders and I think a truly good “boss” is someone who has figured out how to do both.

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    Caty March 11, 2014 at 10:10 am

    Good point, Kris-Ann. While I’m in definite support of the Ban Bossy message for girls, I also agree that teaching leadership skills to kids (and adults!) should go hand-in-hand with promoting kindness. There’s a way to be a boss and a good person, regardless of whether that person is a male or a female.

  3. Media Mom March 11, 2014 at 2:22 pm

    It’s funny, Kris-Ann, my husband asked the same thing last night. To me, from what I’ve seen is that when girls try to organize play, they are called bossy, but when boys do the same, they are often viewed as “taking charge” in a good way. I think the gender divide on this widens as kids get older. And I think women are scrutinized far more for their leadership style first and results second, whereas men are assessed in the exact opposite way — measure the results first, and we’ll forgive the style if the outcome is successful.

    I guess, let’s not mix up “bossy” and “obnoxious.” If a kid is truly obnoxious, I’m all for calling a spade a spade, as long as we’re sharing the wealth equally with boys and girls alike.

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