There has been quite a bit of buzz around LeanIn.org and the Girl Scouts of the USA’s public service campaign Ban Bossy. In full disclosure, I am a CEO of one of the Girl Scout councils.
As you can imagine, the opinions range from supporting a ban on the word “bossy” while others think being “bossy” is synonymous with confidence.
I am fascinated by this discussion because I think everyone can relate on some level. I am sure we’ve called someone bossy, we were called bossy, or we overheard someone being called bossy. In every instance, the word was not meant as a compliment.
Why would anyone think being called bossy is a compliment? Could it be that the definition of the word has been expanded to include positive attributes and less of the “sting” that used to accompany the word?
Through time, the word “bossy” has become more ambiguous to me. I started to feel one would need to be bossy if they were to reach their goals. Perhaps “bossy” meant you were not a pushover and you were capable of standing up for yourself in any situation. Even though I found a way to accept a negatively-charged word, being called “bossy” still did not feel good.
Now that I have a greater understanding of this campaign and have re-evaluated the meaning of the word, I’ve had a change of heart. The campaign encourages us to ban the general and broad use of the word and describe the actual behavior. For instance, if someone is acting aggressive, we should describe the behavior as aggressive instead of “bossy.” “Bossy” is being used to describe both aggressive and assertive behavior. This is why the authors of the articles I read embraced the word “bossy. They thought the word meant assertive.
As a female in an executive leadership position who has the responsibility of hiring, I look for staff, especially women, who are assertive. The assertive women that I know are successful because they work hard to reach their goals. They do not allow anything to get in the way of them succeeding. They stand up for what is important to them even if it is an unpopular opinion.
The Ban Bossy campaign is also addressing how the use of this word is causing girls and young women to shy-away from leadership positions because they do not want to be considered “bossy.” There is a glass ceiling in corporate America. Women are underrepresented in many areas, and the only way that this will change is if girls and young women are not afraid to take leadership roles. If banning this word will encourage girls to lead, count me in! I do not want to see anyone, girl or boy, not succeed because of the use of a word. I remember as a child the saying, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” As an adult, I know that this childhood saying has some flaws, but we cannot let the word “bossy” prevent anyone –especially girls –from being leaders.
Join me and others as we take the pledge to ban “bossy.”