just a mom figuring it out one day at a time

Supporting The ‘Ban Bossy’ Campaign but with a Twist

KC stood barefoot in her sundress, a bow in her hair with her hand on her hip.

“Chris, you get over here and apologize to Sarah for being so mean!”

Stunned at being ordered around by a 4-year-old, Chris, who was about 9 years old, stood there for a moment just staring at KC.  Then he turned to Sarah, “Uh, I’m sorry.”

“Good job Chris. Now go play.”

The group of adults sitting in front of my neighbor’s house burst out laughing. Even at a young age KC had no problem speaking her mind.

KC is a take charge kind of girl and if no one will step up to correct a wrong or organize the masses, KC innately steps in and takes control.  On the upside, she shows tremendous leadership skills.  The downside unfortunately is that sometimes she is so engrossed in taking charge, she fails to listen or acknowledge the feelings or desires of other kids and then they tune her out.  As a result, there are many times when I’ve pulled her aside and suggested that she ask her friends what they would like to do, rather than just order them around.

In short, my daughter is “bossy.”

There are multiple definitions of the word bossy, ranging from “to act as a boss of” or “to order” (Webster’s NewWorld Dictionary) to “overly authoritative; domineering” (Dictionary.com).  While I support her displaying leadership qualities, I don’t support domineering behavior—unfortunately for women I think the perception has a very fine line.

When I worked in the corporate world, and even to a lesser extent today, being assertive or authoritative wasn’t always viewed positively—even in my management roles.  Not because it wasn’t the right thing to do, or because I was or wasn’t doing my job, but because I was a woman. Ironically just yesterday I was having a conversation with a former female attorney regarding this same issue.  The unfortunate reality is that assertive and authoritative women are often viewed as “bossy” which carries a very negative connotation with it.

The good news is that there are a few women out there trying to change that message with the “Ban Bossy” campaign. The Girl Scouts of the USA and Leanin.org have joined forces with their “Ban Bossy” campaign which aims to encourage young females to lead by removing the “bossy” label which is often applied to girls, whereas the same behavior is deemed as acting as a “leader” in boys.

In Anna Maria’ Chávez’s article, “Ban Bossy Campaign Promotes Equality” for CNN.com she notes:

“According to the Girl Scouts Research Institute Ban Bossy National Youth Poll 2014, more than a third of girls who are called “bossy” lose interest in leading and stop making decisions or suggestions.

Children begin to establish gender role stereotypes as early as 2 years old and generate an emerging career identity by middle school. As early as the third grade, girls report anxiety about taking leadership roles, become overly concerned about pleasing others and aspire to be perfect.

 By the time they reach middle school, the damage is done.

A 2003 study by Simmons College notes that by the early teen years, more boys than girls report that they aspire to leadership roles in future careers, and millennial women are less likely to say they “aspire to a leadership role in whatever field I ultimately work.” “

My daughter is now in the latter half of second grade. I don’t want her to be in the group of third graders noted in Anna Maria’ Chávez’s article who becomes anxious when it comes to leadership roles. I want my daughter to be a strong woman, unafraid to speak her mind, so I support the “Ban Bossy” campaign, but with a little modification.

I will remove “bossy” from my vocabulary with her and instead will praise the times when I see her taking a leadership role.  However, I will continue to coach and guide her to listen to the needs of her friends. After all, treating those whom you lead with respect is a sign of a great leader—regardless of gender.





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