As I’m sure you’ve heard by now, LeanIn.Org, along with the Girls Scouts, are looking to ban the word “bossy” as they feel it discourages young girls from aspiring to be leaders in adulthood. By eliminating the word they are hoping to develop and nurture girls to become female politicians, CEOs, business owners, and leaders.
It is an intriguing movement. As a female entrepreneur — President and Chief Bargains Officer of the Bargains Group — I’ve experienced the stigma women face in the business world firsthand. Women often have to work twice as hard to be noticed in business and are often compensated less than male counterparts. While there continues to be more and more high-level female executives, we are still outnumbered–sometimes as much as 9-to-1–in the corporate world.
Despite improvements over the years, there’s no denying the gender inequality that still exists in the workforce.
Doing my part to empower women in business, I often speak in front of business women and female entrepreneurs, telling my story and sharing some of my secrets to surviving in a man’s world. There is always a never ending list of events and support groups looking for successful women to help mentor others in business, empowering women to break through the many barriers they face.
So asking people to take the #BanBossy pledge seems like a great first step to eliminating those barriers. Abolish the negativity surrounding female leaders to help nourish them.
Unfortunately, the effort seems misplaced.
For starters, the word “bossy” is just one in an endless list of putdowns directed at women who look to stand out from the crowd. Know-it-all, controlling, pushy; all words meant to discourage someone who gravitates towards leadership. Is the next step to ban all these words as well?
Instead of fighting an unwinnable battle to eliminate words, we should be promoting their antonyms… ambitious, passionate, strong, a visionary. The way to feed a new generation of female leaders is to encourage them to embrace leadership. After all, positivity breeds success.
Both LeanIn.Org and the Girl Scouts work to inspire women to achieve more, so why not focus on programs that nurture the inner-leader rather than argue semantics? It’s true that young women suffer from increasingly lower self-esteem in comparison to boys, but will wiping out “bossy” really correct this?
The self-esteem of young girls is a far greater social problem to place so much blame on a single word.
The way to build female leaders is to motivate them, not shield them from any critics. Part of what makes a great leader is the desire to prove people wrong. It’s about having the drive to reach for something greater regardless of what doubters may say. I’m not advocating bullying, but a girl who has faced no negativity won’t know how to deal with it when it really matters.
There are also plenty of derogatory terms aimed at men in leadership roles; when I was a young girl “bossy” never really seemed gender specific. Yet men continue to outnumber women in the workplace. As women, are we expected to believe that the word “bossy” is to blame for the barrier?
I admire the efforts of LeanIn.org and the Girl Scouts to raise a new generation of female leader. It’s something I am incredibly passionate about and I make a special effort to mentor women in my life–pushing them aspire to success. However, to center a huge campaign–one featuring some of the most powerful women alive– around banning a mild term like “bossy” seems like misdirected energy.
There will always be people who try to put down powerful women, so don’t try and silence them by banning words. Silence them by helping to show what women can accomplish.
One last thought… Beyonce–a proud supporter of #BanBossy–just released a song containing the lyrics “…bow down b*tches.” Maybe bossy isn’t the most important word to focus on!