Could banning one word today really affect the leadership of tomorrow?
According to Facebook chief operating officer and author of best-selling book “Lean In,” Sheryl Sandberg, the answer is yes.
Ban Bossy, which now has its own online petition and boasts the endorsement of high profile women like Beyoncé and Condoleezza Rice, has taken shape to encourage young girls and working female professionals alike—whether on the playground or in the office place—to change the conversation by changing the connotation of one word: bossy.
Joining Forces to Ban Bossy
Here, the New England Patriots’ cheerleaders encourage fans and followers of their Facebook page to join them as they ban bossy.
And, in this promotional video, superstar Beyoncé states “I’m not bossy. I’m the boss.”
It’s Not Just About Banning Bossy
The idea is simple: raise awareness of what words like bossy do to the mindset of future female leaders.
But the movement's opponents think the concept is a little too simple.
In a recent Time article, Jessica Roy argues that “Sandberg’s brand of feminism” and subsequent campaign focuses on “policing language rather than bringing attention to important issues that have real impact on women and girls.”
Roy goes on to list issues like the gender pay gap and girls’ lack of access to education worldwide as real reasons behind the lack of female leadership in today’s businesses—a shortage that Sandberg put into context in a recent ABC interview when she noted that women make up 50 percent of the population but only five percent of the Fortune 500 CEOs.
Women in the Workplace: What They Think and How They Lead
According to the female respondents of Randstad’s latest US Employee Engagement Index, equal pay and more visible female leadership were the top two most beneficial ways companies could help women advance in the workplace.
A catch-22 if they’re constantly being ridiculed for being too “bossy.”
During Randstad’s Women Powering Business panelist events, held late last year in both Boston and San Francisco, fellow Lean In colleague and founder, Rachel Thomas, spoke heavily of the use of the word bossy and asked attendees how many of them had been called bossy when they were little. With the majority of audience members raising their hands, it’s clear that the reputation female leaders have among their male colleagues and the characteristics associated with them are less than attractive to up-and-coming females.
But, common misconceptions about female leadership qualities are quickly being disseminated—characteristics like women are too emotional or passive—with both the Randstad Engagement Study and Inc. reporting that women are now being credited for being empathetic problem solvers who possess a good sense of balance and patience—all qualities that are profitable to today’s businesses.
“Companies with more than three women in top positions (executive committee or boards) scored higher than peer companies on McKinsey’s Organizational Health Index (OHI), which measures nine factors that are linked to well-functioning organizations. Companies with a high score on OHI have also shown superior financial performance,” according to Randstad’s whitepaper, “Women Shaping the World of Work: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow.”
Your Words Carry Weight
In the same ABC interview, Girl Scouts USA CEO Anna Maria Chávez summarized the campaign with this, “Words matter.”
Maybe it will take more than bringing attention to one five letter word, but regardless, it’s starting an important conversation about today’s female leadership, or lack thereof, and how together, we can all help promote women powering business.