There has been much conversation around “Ban Bossy,” the recent campaign launched by Sheryl Sandberg’s LeanIn.org and the Girl Scouts.
On one side, there are those that feel that nobody has the right to ban a word from the dictionary. The problem is that folks are missing the point and the essence of the message “Ban Bossy.” They shouldn’t be taking the words literally. These organizations are doing what no other women’s rights campaign has done in decades. They have started a conversation about the visible gender gap that exists, specifically in the areas of leadership and professional development.
The numbers don’t lie. Women make up 5 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs. Overall, it is 5 percent or lower for the top listed companies in the world regardless of industry. In U.S. politics, women hold 99 seats of the 535 seats in Congress and the percentage is about the same in the Senate.
According to a recent study by American University and Loyola Marymount University, Girls Just Wanna Not Run: The Gender Gap in Young Americans’ Political Ambition, more than 2,100 college students between the ages of 18 and 25 were surveyed and said that the main reason young women chose not to run for elected positions stems from a variety of the following factors:
• Young men are more likely than young women to be socialized by their parents to think about politics as a career path.
• From school experiences to peer associations to media habits, young women tend to be exposed to less political information and discussion.
• Young men are more likely to have played organized sports and care about winning.
• Young women are less likely to think they will be qualified to run for office, even once they have established careers.
According to the Girl Scouts Research Institute, the confidence gap starts young. Between elementary school and high school, a girl’s self-esteem drops 3.5 times more than a boy’s although this trend has been changing because of mentoring programs.
As a Hispanic — and outspoken — woman, I cannot count the times I have been called bossy. The first time was in kindergarten. I decided to organize my classmates in a line during a field trip and haven’t forgotten the teacher’s admonition: “Stop being so bossy, get in line and mind your business.” Obviously, my leadership skills started at an early age, but being called bossy when I was 5 years old made the word sound negative.
I have never heard a boy or man being called bossy — they are called a boss. The campaign is about gender parity. Taking the negative out of the word reinforces the message that girls can lead and choose career paths that prepare them for leadership positions.
Irela Bagué, past president,
Girl Scout Council of Tropical Florida,