When a little boy asserts himself, he is called a leader. When a little girl asserts herself, she is called “bossy.”
Starting at a surprisingly young age, cultural gender expectations discourage girls from leadership. When a young girl asserts herself in the manner expected of boys, she risks being branded bossy—a precursor to other offensive and dismissive descriptors such as “aggressive,” “angry,” and “overly ambitious.”
Research on girls and leadership is devastatingly clear. According to a study the Girl Scouts Research Institute (GSRI) conducted, by middle school girls are less interested in leadership roles than boys because they fear being disliked. Indeed, 53% of Girl Scouts have been called bossy at least once, and teachers are more likely to ask a Girl Scout to lead at school because of her well-developed leadership skills.
“Girls are twice as likely as boys to avoid leadership roles for fear of being deemed ‘bossy’ by their peers,” explains Anna Maria Chávez, CEO of Girl Scouts of the USA (GSUSA). “At Girl Scouts, we want to bring adults and girls together to empower them as our next generation of leaders.”
Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO, author of Lean In, and founder of LeanIn.org, believes we should encourage girls to “lean in” and let their voices be heard. “We need to recognize the ways we systematically discourage leadership in girls from a young age—and instead, we need to encourage them [to lead],” Sandberg explains.
As part of the Ban Bossy campaign, Lifetime TV will air a “Ban Bossy” PSA with appearances by Chávez and Sandberg, as well as Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, performer Beyoncé, actress Jennifer Gardner, fashion designer Diane von Fürstenberg, and others.
The Ban Bossy campaign will be housed on a newly launched website, BanBossy.com, where visitors can take the pledge to Ban Bossy, share facts and figures on girls’ leadership, read Ban Bossy quotes from celebrities and leaders, and download our leadership tips encouraging girls and women to lead at home, at school, and at work.
We want all girls to know they can be anything they want to be. Whether your girl seeks to be the CEO of the world’s largest company or the CEO of her family at home, the time to ban bossy is now—and the campaign should start at home. “So the next time you have the urge to call your little girl ‘bossy’?” Sandberg explains. “Take a deep breath and say, ‘My daughter has executive leadership skills.’”
Interested in Girl Scouts? Visit www.girlscouts.org to find your local council and determine how to join.
LeanIn.org is the nonprofit organization founded by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg to empower all women to achieve their ambitions. LeanIn.Org offers inspiration and support through an online community, free expert lectures, and Lean In Circles, which are small peer groups who meet regularly and learn to grow together. Nearly 375,000 women and men have joined the LeanIn.org community and started more than 14,000 Lean In Circles in over 50 countries since the organization was launched in March 2013 following the release of Sandberg’s bestselling book, Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead. LeanIn.org is a private operating nonprofit organization under IRS section 501(c)(3).
About Girl Scouts of the USA:
Founded in 1912, Girl Scouts of the USA is the preeminent leadership development organization for girls, with 3 million girl and adult members worldwide and over 49 million alumnae. Nonpartisan and inclusive, Girl Scouts is the leading authority on girls’ healthy development. Girl Scouts build girls of courage, confidence, and character who make the world a better place. The organization serves girls from every corner of the United States and its territories. Girl Scouts of the USA also serves American girls and their classmates attending American or international schools overseas in 90 countries. For more information on how to join, volunteer, reconnect with, or donate to Girl Scouts, call 800-GSUSA-4-U (212-852-8000) or visit www.girlscouts.org.