I was on Twitter this week and an entry from Victoria Beckham caught my eye. It was an image of her looking very serious with a bubble containing the words: “It is thought provoking that a man in charge may be described as commanding, however, a woman in the same situation may be called bossy.”
Addressing this fact is the ethos behind the latest campaign, which is supported by some of the most well-known women in the world, including VB herself. Beyoncé, Jennifer Garner and Michelle Obama, are just a handful of the influential women who are calling for a ban on girls being called bossy.
“When a little boy asserts himself, he’s called a ‘leader.’ Yet when a little girl does the same, she risks being branded ‘bossy.’ Words like bossy send a message: don’t raise your hand or speak up. By middle school, girls are less interested in leading than boys–a trend that continues into adulthood. Together we can encourage girls to lead.” – BanBossy.com
The Ban Bossy campaign was founded by the Girl Scouts of the USA and LeanIn.org, the organisation founded by Facebook Chief Operating Officer, Sheryl Sandberg, to empower women to achieve their ambitions.
According to Ban Bossy campaigners, terms like “bossy” are disproportionately applied to females and labelling ambitious girls bossy makes them think of their leadership skills as negative qualities. (Perhaps it’s telling that in the Mr.Men books, Little Miss Bossy doesn’t have a male equivalent).
I am all for women in positions of leadership – the world would be a better place if there were more of them – and it’s true that most high-profile women have to cope with being called many things – but even if “bossy” could be banned, would it really have the impact these stars seem to be aiming for?
I understand the sentiment behind the campaign; I think it’s absolutely right that girls should be brought up knowing that’s more than ok to have opinions and to say them out loud, and that they should lead and not just follow – but I think there are some big practical steps which need to be taken along with campaigns like this in order to make real change.
It’s not just about changing the perception of women in leadership, it’s about giving girls the tools to stand up as leaders. The culture won’t change overnight so girls need the skills and confidence to deal with those who will still call them bossy and probably worse.
Our young people need legitimate role models and I think schools have a role to play here. Yes, it is important that girls can look at women who have made something of themselves to grace the cover of glossy magazines – but girls also need to meet non-celebrity women in leadership, hear how they got there and have the chance to ask questions. There should be more school visits. Women owe it to their younger selves to make this possible.
There should also be more focus on debating in schools. Girls need to be able to articulate their point in a formal setting and feel comfortable receiving criticism and formulating a well-reasoned rebuttal. It’s crucial. This campaign is a start, but I think the scale of the problem needs a bigger solution than Banning Bossy.
Let us know your thoughts @MaggieSempleLtd #BanBossy
By Olivia Parish