Assertive boys are called leaders, assertive girls are called bossy
LeanIn.Org and Girl Scouts of the USA today launched Ban Bossy, a public service campaign to encourage leadership and achievement in girls. The campaign—with educational materials, a new website, a public service announcement (PSA) and endorsements by celebrities and others—will draw attention to the ways girls and women are discouraged from leading, beginning when girls are called “bossy.” It will offer educational resources to help girls and women take the lead and give parents, teachers, troop leaders and managers hands-on strategies for supporting female leadership. The campaign is promoting the #banbossy hashtag to spread the word.
Starting at a surprisingly young age, girls are discouraged from leading. When a little boy asserts himself, he is called a “leader.” Yet when a little girl does the same, she risks being branded “bossy”—a precursor to words like “aggressive,” “angry” and “too ambitious” that are often used to describe strong female leaders. It’s no wonder that by middle school, girls are less interested in leadership roles than boys, a trend that continues into adulthood and reduces the ranks of women at the top of organizations everywhere.
“We need to recognize the many ways we systematically discourage leadership in girls from a young age—and instead, we need to encourage them,” said Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO and founder of LeanIn.Org. “So the next time you have the urge to call your little girl bossy? Take a deep breath and praise her leadership skills instead.”
“Girls are twice as likely as boys to avoid leadership roles for fear of being disliked or deemed ‘bossy’ by their peers,” added Anna Maria Chávez, CEO of the Girl Scouts of the USA. “At Girl Scouts, we want to bring adults and girls together to empower girls as our next generation of leaders. Abandoning ‘bossy’ is a great start.”
As part of the campaign, Lifetime Television has partnered with LeanIn.Org to create and produce an original Ban Bossy PSA to air on the network, with appearances by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Beyoncé, Jennifer Garner, NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson, Jane Lynch, Diane von Furstenberg, Sandberg and Chávez.
The Ban Bossy campaign will be hosted on a new website, BanBossy.com. Here you can pledge to Ban Bossy, share facts and figures on girls’ leadership, read Ban Bossy quotes from influencers including Michelle Obama, Madeleine Albright, Melinda Gates, Geoffrey Canada, Maria Shriver, Marc Morial, Senator Ayotte and Senator McCaskill and celebrities including Alicia Keys, Jane Fonda, Janelle Monáe, Billie Jean King, Tory Burch, Christiane Amanpour, Katie Couric, and Chelsea Handler and download our leadership tips with practical advice on how to encourage girls and women to lead at home, school and work.
“Ban Bossy wants to change the messages we send girls,” explains LeanIn.Org co-founder and President Rachel Thomas. “There are simple but powerful things we can do everyday to encourage girls to step forward and take the lead. We teach our daughters their multiplication tables; we need to teach them to flex their leadership muscles.”
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