Sheryl Sandberg is back in the headlines, this time with a new message. “Ban Bossy” is a campaign aimed at the labeling of young girls with determined personalities as “bossy.” Rather than dismissing a young girl as such, we should develop those qualities, as they will be tomorrow’s leaders. Of course, this is all part of a larger discussion and one highlighted by Sandberg’s own book, “Lean In,” which encourages women to engage and become business leaders. The “Ban Bossy” campaign is certainly a noble one. Leanin.org is brimming with statistics—“Between elementary school and high school, girls’ self-esteem drops 3.5 times more than boys,”—and quotes from celebrities such as Beyonce: “I’m not bossy. I am the boss.”
Just as with “Lean In,” there is an important and valid message: women do not equal men in pay or leadership positions in business. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, women, even those who work outside the home, still do more housework than men. The feminist movement made huge strides by giving women more opportunities, choices, and control over their lives. If we look at these statistics, however, there is still work to be done.
The “Ban Bossy” campaign has many resources for parents, teachers, and girls on how to avoid stereotypes and encourage leadership from an early age. Just as in “Lean In,” perhaps the creators of this campaign are preaching to the choir? The people who are most inflamed by Sheryl Sandberg – and she certainly does court controversy – are women. The columnists and television hosts and bloggers who are discussing “Ban Bossy” are women. Men do not seem to be as engaged in the “Lean In” conversation and likewise, it seems that boys are somewhat sidelined in the “Ban Bossy” campaign. It is absolutely imperative that we continue to cultivate leadership skills in young girls, and that is where the “Ban Bossy” discussion has a great deal of merit. But if we do not include boys and men in this conversation, in fact, require their participation, we will still be having this conversation in 20 years. In order to “Lean In” and “Ban Bossy,” we need to have the other half of the population on board.