Campaign Hopes To Ban The Word Bossy, Encourage Female Leadership

By John Ceballos
The Ledger, Lakeland, Fla.

No woman likes to be called the “B” word, so a new campaign aims to do away with the word “bossy.”

Ban Bossy is a collaboration between the Lean In foundation — spearheaded by Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg — and the Girl Scouts.

“It’s [bossy] a word that’s pretty much not used for little boys, because if a little boy leads, it’s expected.” Sandberg said. “If a little girl leads, she’s bossy.”

Lean In and the Girl Scouts have worked together to develop Ban Bossy leadership tips for girls, parents, educators and managers.

The information is available via download on Ban Bossy’s website (

The campaign also cites a study by the Girl Scout Research Institute that found girls were twice as likely as boys to be worried about being perceived as bossy if they took on leadership roles.

“All over the world, women are called ‘bossy,’?” Sandberg said during a December Technology, Entertainment, Design (TED) conference in San Francisco. “There’s a word for bossy, for little girls, in every language.”

The initiative picked up steam this month — March is Women’s History Month — after the release of an online video supporting the campaign.

The video features Sandberg and Girl Scouts CEO Anna Maria Chavez, alongside celebrity endorsers, including singer Beyonce, actress Jane Lynch, and NASCAR driver Jimmie Johnson, as well as former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

Not everyone, however, is a supporter.

Maria Mahoney founded The Mahoney Group, a Lakeland-based real estate brokerage firm, in 1998. She was born in France and first came to the United States in 1973.

“I was enamored with America because it was a wide canvas where anyone can do or say whatever they want,” Mahoney said. She believes the words people call each other shouldn’t be regulated. “This is an insipid topic given everything that’s going on in the world.”

J. Lenora Bresler is a lawyer who also operates Bresler Training in Lakeland, a leadership and employee training firm.

“I think this is much ado about nothing,” Bresler said. “I have personally heard plenty of men referred to as ‘bossy.’?”

Bresler thinks the word applies more to an ineffective leadership style that inspires low morale, and less to a particular gender.

“I don’t want anyone to be ‘bossy,’ but I don’t think it’s a sexist comment,” she said. “I think it’s a vague description of a leadership style that doesn’t work.”

Meanwhile, Chrissanne Long — CEO of Maximize Digital Media in Lakeland, which offers online marketing services for businesses — has some personal experience with the word.

“As a young girl, I had an aggressive personality,” Long said. “It definitely has a negative connotation in my mind, and I can’t recall any man being referred to as ‘bossy’ in my personal experience.”

Long supports the Ban Bossy campaign, but worries it might be co-opted by feminist groups.

“I don’t relate to the Gloria Steinems of the world,” she said. “I feel like this movement could be lumped into that, and I’m afraid of it.”

Mahoney supports Ban Bossy’s efforts on building character, rather than eradicating a particular word.

“The most important thing is strength of character, because it doesn’t matter what anyone calls you; what matters is how you take it,” she said. “You should know yourself and not judge yourself on what other people say, whether it’s good or bad.”

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