I’m bossy. I don’t care. I said it.
The fact that being bossy is perceived as pejorative or unseemly is lost on me. I was raised to be a leader, by leaders. I am not a follower, meek or weak-willed (all words I find more restrictive than “bossy”). I have been called names, cowered to, and run from. I often think the male gender breaks out in a rash, categorically, when over exposed to me. There are no vacancies here for the easily intimidated.
I am not palatable to everyone. I am an acquired taste.
Again, I don’t care. Or, rather, I like this about myself.
What I do care about is the evolution of my daughter. I care about her experience. Her feelings. Her understanding of “leadership.”
Every week, Zoe is required to select and summarize a current event for her class. I help her select, she does all the summary on her own. As we review the news each week, I am careful to point her in the path of the positive.
She’s reported on teenage scientists, Olympians with disabilities, innovative technologies, possible agriculture on the moon and the occasional panda birth.
This week we selected the #BanBossy campaign. Set forth by Facebook COO, Sheryl Sandberg, the campaign aims to ban the word “bossy,” arguing the negative put-down stops girls from pursuing leadership roles.
Sandberg’s organization Lean In has joined forces with former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Girl Scouts USA CEO Anna Maria Chávez to launch a public service campaign called “Ban Bossy.” The banbossy.com website gives tips for parents, kids, teachers and others about how to encourage young female leaders.
This is a handpicked group of professional women reaching nearly cultural hot point. The campaign is also launched to support and celebrate the 1 year anniversary of Sandberg’s Lean In book. It’s a bunch of self-promoting hype, but the end message is good.
As a publicist, I’ll admit, it’s a genius bit of marketing for Lean In.
That said, I applaud Sandberg and the celebrities/public officials for continuing to push for female empowerment, in the public eye. It is unfortunate that we are still having this conversation, in 2014 – but we are.
I have never been a fan of separatism. Just as I don’t classify or separate people by their race, ethnicity, or religion, I don’t think we should do this for gender either. I understand why we do it. I understand the need for “girl power” push, but feel it should really be “people power.”
I get it though. There is a dire need to support our girls so they can support themselves. The #BanBossy campaign states that “the confidence gap starts young: Between elementary school and high school, girls’ self-esteem drops 3.5 times more than boys’.”
Gender roles are more confusing than ever. There are also more women in the workforce now than ever. We are competitive. We need to shore up the confidence with current and future generations of C-suite women. We need to shape the public perception of a female leader.
What I’m concerned about is shaping my child’s perception of a leader. Female or otherwise.
This morning, we talked about the article selected for her current event. We watched the video.
Women of considerable power and visibility speak throughout the video. Women of all colors, races, religions and professions. Entrepreneurial women I admire, like Diane Von Furstenberg.
She asked “what does Beyonce mean when she says ‘I’m not bossy. I’m the boss.’”
I told her that I thought Beyonce was saying, “Hey don’t mess with me. I’m smart. I work hard. I make the decisions. If you don’t like it, to the left…”
Sound words from Mrs. Carter.
Personally, I’m not a fan of her parading around mostly naked as a role model. I’m not slut-shaming, I just think it’s sending mixed messages. Bey, I know, you’re in control of your own sexuality – bravo for you, but my 9 year old doesn’t need to understand that yet. That’s all. She’s surely enjoying the fruits of her labor more than I am, so more power to her.
We watched that video again, just before school, and I teared up.
Why? Because I want my daughter to be empowered. To be a decision maker instead of someone who deals with the decisions of others.
So I gave her the best advice I could give her regarding leadership. I told her that it’s OK to not always be in charge. Just because you’re the smartest or the best at something, doesn’t mean you get to, or should make all the decisions by yourself.
The most important quality of a leader is to listen.
A leader observes and listens to those around her. She sees the talents and influence and uses them to make the best, most informed decisions she can. She is not afraid to make mistakes. She engages participation. She builds on ideas to innovate and problem solve.
She is inclusive not exclusive.
If you are a parent or a teacher, it’s important to get on board with the information contained within the #BanBossy campaign. Understand the middle school drop off and support our girls at home FIRST. Then school, sports and volunteerism.
We need to lead by example. They will understand the support of strong friendships (female and otherwise), the power of problem solving and the effect of thoughtful and collaborative decision-making.
“The girl with the courage to raise her hand in class becomes the woman with the confidence to assert herself at work. As parents, grandparents, and
caretakers, there are small changes each of us can make that have a big impact on girls’ confidence and ambitions.”
For that, for my daughter, for your daughter, for all the daughters out there, I raise my hand.