I’ve been called bossy my entire life.
When I got my first job at a talent agency in Beverly Hills, I noticed that all of the company’s partners were male. All of the assistants knew that the agency was still very much a boys club. The first female partner was promoted about 3 years later. During my entire time in Hollywood both at that agency and then as an assistant at a production company, I was always nervous to speak up and share what I had to say. How did Queenie leave me?
Sheryl Sandberg (COO of Facebook and author of “Lean In) along with Anna Marie Chavez (CEO of Girl Scouts USA) are spearheading a campaign to ban the word, bossy. From the campaign website, banbossy.com:
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.
I’m not saying that being called bossy made me more reluctant to speak up. However, something in our general culture of the different ways boys and girls are “supposed to act,” did. As a teacher and mom, I think this issue is important to address.
I ended up leaving Hollywood to enter a profession I loved: teaching. Suddenly, in a heavily female dominated environment, I again found Queenie. I volunteered for leadership roles, took risks and started sharing my views. Then, something interesting happened. I was on a team with two other teachers who were new to the school. Our grade level worked on the second floor of the building. At one of the new teacher meetings, one of my colleagues asked my two teammates, “How’s it going working with the Upstairs Boss?” I wasn’t at the meeting, so to hear myself referred to in this way, out of earshot, hurt. I realize that this happens all the time in society. Men are called assertive. Women are bossy. What kind of message does this send and what do we teach when we use the bossy label?
Just like me, my daughter likes to lead. If I dismissed her behavior as “bossy”, I would be losing countless teachable moments on the essentials of leadership. For instance, a few months ago, she invited her friend over for a play date. She had a whole list of activities planned before the playdate. When her friend wanted to play something else, my daughter refused. When the friend then didn’t want to play with her, my daughter stormed up the stairs and sulked in her room. Was the problem that my daughter was being “bossy”? No. The problem was she wasn’t compromising and she had no clue how to negotiate this situation. Her friend called home and left early.
After this incident, and when my daughter had calmed down, my husband and I talked to her about how to take turns when playing. We also talked about the importance of listening to other peoples ideas and trying out new games. What would she have learned from this situation if we had called her behavior bossy? That its somehow wrong to be the boss?
The website banbossy.com has amazing resources with tips for girls, parents and teachers as well as managers. If you are a woman, have a daughter/granddaughter/niece, work with women or talk with women, I urge you to check it out. With Whimsicle, Megan and I wanted to create a business that celebrates the strength of women through beautiful jewelry and promotes family-geared experiences. I always think of the world I’m creating for my daughter and son. Join with us to #banbossy.