There’s a new girl power initiative spreading across the internet that’s backed by some of the world’s biggest bosses. Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook and author of Lean In has spearheaded the #BanBossy movement to stop girls from being branded as bossy, and to encourage them to become leaders. Now y’all know I’m all about uplifting women and girls, but I’m not convinced that bossy needs to be banned. For me, it’s not a matter of the mission of the campaign. I think it’s great. Absolutely, let’s give girls the tools to lead with confidence starting in grade school. Yes! Let’s do that! The thing that’s stopping me from getting all the way behind this #BanBossy movement, however, is a matter of semantics. Oh, and the fact that I don’t think it’s about the girls at all.
Why do we have to ban bossy? Why not just reinvent it? Teach girls to take it as a compliment, and be empowered by it? Or even better, let’s leave bossy alone and deal with the real issues that hinder girls (and some women) from becoming leaders at a young age.
Low self esteem.
And I’m not talking about the girls. Look, if strong leadership isn’t modeled, it’s difficult to know what it should look like. There are too many grown folks walking around lacking confidence, and looking to someone else to lead. When they come into contact with a young girl who is assertive and sure of herself, often, instead of celebrating that, they try to extinguish it. I know, because I was that girl, and in many ways, I still deal with the same challenges as a bossy, self-assured, confident woman.
Adults Need To Model Leadership For Girls
When I was younger, there were so many adult “role-models” who lacked a strong sense of self, and they projected their insecurities on me. Instead of dealing with their own feelings of self doubt and low esteem, I was berated for being opinionated, mouthy and bossy. If a girl is called bossy by her teacher, her teacher needs to deal with their issues…it’s not about the girl. If a child is called bossy by her schoolmates, the teacher should be educating the students on what leadership is and what it looks like. The child’s parents, when she goes home, should be assuring the daughter that bossy isn’t a bad thing, and that bossy little girls turn into women who run big things.
Fortunately for me, I was raised in a family where I was taught that it’s okay to question, and that my thoughts mattered. If I had a good idea, we went with it, and even when I didn’t have a say in the decision making at all (sometimes being a kid sucked!), I was still able to speak my mind and know that I would be heard.
I’m raising my daughter in the same way. She is always welcome to state her (many. many. MANY.) opinions, even if it drives me crazy. At the same time, I’m teaching her to be respectful of the opinions and ideas of others, because bossy and bitchy are not the same thing. Bossy and bully are not the same thing. Bossy and any other negative word that starts with a B are not the same thing. Let’s stop reaching, folks.
The #BanBossy website actually does have some great ideas for planting seeds of leadership in young girls. Some of the tips include encouraging your child to step out of her comfort zone, being conscious of the way you and she talk, and teaching her to respect her feelings. All of that is great, and there are some excellent resources in the form of printables and visuals on the site as well that I’ll print off and use with Ayva. The name of the campaign, and the focus on bossy, waters down the impact of what they are doing. It creates a potential cultural divide, and the topic of leadership almost gets overshadowed by the provocative title.
Sheryl Sandberg, Beyoncé, Michelle Obama…those are my girls. I might not agree with every single thing that they do, but I am motivated by the way they lead in their respective fields. All three of them have been leadership pioneers in different ways on their journeys. So, instead of trying to #BanBossy, I look at them and I’m inspired to teach my Ayva instead to #PracticePerseverance, #StayStrong, and #BeBolder.