What do Beyoncé, Sheryl Sandberg, Condoleezza Rice and Jane Lynch all have in common? Well, other than being pretty awesome these women are all apart of a new movement headed up by Sandberg known as the “Ban Bossy” Campaign.
The homepage of the campaign’s website asserts itself with the statement, “when a little boy asserts himself, he is called a leader. Yet, when a little girl does the same, she risks being branded “bossy.” The idea behind the campaign is more than just banning a word; it is about addressing the real issue behind why from a young age, girls are made to feel as if they cannot or should not lead. It is an age-old problem with a new world attitude. If we consider that it was only in the last half a century that women were actually even given the right to vote, then it may appear as if we, as a society, have come very far. In many ways, this is true. Nevertheless, according to this campaign and the inspiring women behind it, we have a long way to go before true equality is a reality and this campaign could play a role in that.
CEO of Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg, the brains of Ban Bossy, says that she wants the campaign to open a dialogue about the semantics behind the word bossy. She says that bossy “is a word that is symbolic of systematic discouragement of girls to lead.” For her and the other powerhouse women of the movement, it is not just about getting rid of the word, it is about delving into the defeating the messages behind the word that “hold [girls] back.” Standing alongside Sandberg in most of the adverts and interviews for Ban Bossy is the Executive Director of Girl Scouts of the USA, Anna Maria Chavez. For Chavez, the Ban Bossy campaign isn’t about picking boys over girls, however, it is about “ensuring that we have every capable person prepared to lead…[that] every brain cell is around decision-making tables.”
In an interview conducted with Christy Shores, a Young Life—an organization that help facilitates spiritual and personal growth in high school age women—leader from the U.S., I found that her sentiments were quite similar. She does not consider herself a feminist but she believes it is “so good to shed light on the issue and bring in the statistics of how discouraged girls can be in terms of leading.” Christy also said that this systematic discouragement of young girls leads to young women losing their voices in a way that makes us forget how to have informed and educated opinions of our own. For Christy, #banbossy means inspiring girls to have the courage to disagree, to have an argument, and win it.
Since the viral release of the Ban Bossy’s official video, Twitter has been blown up with the hashtag banbossy. There is a whole host of opinions twittering through the social media site ranging from big stars like Victoria Beckham pledging their support to world-renown magazines like Forbes questioning whether we should #banbossy or #embracebossy. Regardless of the different opinions, this campaign has definitely started a conversation about how we can continue to encourage girls to pursue leadership with confidence.
In addition, throughout the Ban Bossy official site and unofficial Facebook page, there are more statistics and stories all pointing to ways in which the leadership qualities and ambition in women are stifled from a very young age. For example, the site says that between elementary and high school, girls’ self-esteem drops 3.5 times more than boys.’
Being a female myself, and a strong-willed one at that, I can completely identify with this statement. I may not have been specifically called “bossy” (to my face at least) but I was made fun of and picked on for having a desire to lead and the gumption to make it happen. I was picked on for really working hard in school and in extracurricular activities instead of doing what I was “supposed to be doing” as a girl i.e. flirting with boys, partying and taking up needlework. Okay, so that last one is an exaggeration. However, starting from about the age of 12 or 13, I was made to feel as if I was wrong to have ambition, to want good grades and to make my mark. It hurt then and sometimes, I still find that I question myself too often but in the end, I was able to overcome. Not every young impressionable woman can say the same and that is why this campaign is important. I guess the question is whether we should be focusing on getting rid of a word or building up the girls around us, teaching them to embrace their natural leadership and self-confidence.