LeanIn.org kicked off a campaign about female leadership based on the idea that girls decide to not lead because they fear being called “bossy.” The data driving this meme is a Girl Scout survey from 2008 of around 4,000 boys and girls that found that “girls between the ages of 8 and 17 avoid leadership roles for fear that they will be labeled ‘bossy’ or disliked by their peers.”
I struggle with this premise for a few reasons: If you are the kind of person who fears being called a word, you likely aren’t much of a leader, female group politics at this age encourage this type of behavior, growing up is hard, and it’s easier to stand down than to stand out at school. Lastly, our society isn’t aching to be led by 8-17 year olds of either gender. Leadership development is a lifelong endeavor and typically involves failure for much of it. Not everyone is cut out to be a leader. To paraphrase The Incredibles: If everyone is a leader, no one is. My main disagreement is that this campaign falls for the same trope – pseudo feminist initiatives always do – of blaming men or society instead of recommending actions women can take.
Blaming men is a cheap way to avoid the hard work it takes to assume responsibility for ones actions, stop worrying about what “some guy” thinks, and keep at it till you succeed. Excuses aren’t leadership, and this campaign is full of excuses. Banning the word “bossy” is so reductively cute that it ruins the point. Own “bossy” if you think you have value to bring to the table, but please learn how to not be seen as “annoying-bossy” so people will want you as a leader. Banning a word that may be appropriate to use to describe a bad behavior is hiding from the critical feedback a girl needs to learn to be an effective leader.
When you talk to men about this issue, they don’t use the word “bossy” because they usually use a worse, coarser term when another man is pushing people around with no good reason. People don’t enjoy following bossy people, they follow people who respect and encourage their best behavior. While it’s clear I have some issues with the entire premise of “ban bossy” as laid out by Ms. Sandberg, that doesn’t make the stated goal of encouraging girls to lead a bad one.
“Watch their inspiring takes on why the messages we send our girls matter— and what happens when we encourage our girls to raise their hands, sit at the table and lean in.”
Who isn’t interested in advocating for people to get ahead in life? Yearning for opportunity is a quintessential American trait. Women have aspirations outside of being a mother just as men have aspirations outside of being a father. Learning to be an effective leader is also going to help you herd the most challenging people you‘ll ever have to manage anyway. Seriously, spend a few days organizing some children and you’ll learn more about managing difficult employees than most actual management training. That said, from the popularity of this campaign it should be evident that many women feel opportunity slipping away.
It isn’t just women in this country who feel this way. If you look at polls you see the majority of Americans are concerned about the future. I’d quibble that tearing down the other gender, as evinced by the idea that men are called “leaders” while women are called “bossy”, isn’t the way to solve this. Republicans miss an opportunity here when they focus on the silliness of banning a word instead of saying: ” here’s a large voting block expressing a concern; we should have an answer that is better than anyone else.”
Take this little girl’s complaint that went viral
Charlotte Benjamin’s hand-written letter she says she “love[s] Lego” but complains that during a visit to the toy store she noticed that “there are more Lego boy people and barely any Lego girls.”
Addressing the “Lego company” she compares how “all the girls did was sit at home, got to the beach, and shop, and had no jobs,” while the boy figures “went on adventures, worked, saved people, and had jobs,” adding they “even swam with sharks”.
In the letter dated 25 January, the seven-year-old orders the company to “make more Lego girl people and let them go on adventures and have fun ok!?! Thank you.”
The Republican Party is the party that wants everyone to go on adventures, work hard, save people and have jobs. You could say the Democrats cater to the idea of being free from “job lock” so you can sit at home, go to the beach and shop.
The point being, we are on the side of this little girl whose story is featured so prominently on the banbossy.com site. The fans of this girls letter are Republican voters; they just might not know it yet.
Lets parse through some of the disadvantages of women, as cited by Sheryl Sandberg in her WSJ piece.
Other studies have determined that teachers interact with and call on boys more frequently and allow them to shout out answers more than girls.
It’s mainly that one but for the sake of unity, it’s clear that today’s schools serve neither gender well. Whether they are over diagnosing boys with ADHD, ignoring introverted students, or leaving many men behind, the answer is the same. School Choice will allow parents to choose schools that will fit their child’s learning needs. If you fear your daughter will be passed over or interest in developing her leadership skills is lacking at a school, having the ability to switch schools is a pretty powerful weapon for a parent – especially a poorer parent who doesn’t have the same options as the well-off.
Sheryl Sandberg recounts her own childhood experiences here
When my brother and sister describe our childhood, they will say that I never actually played as a child but instead just organized other kids’ play. At my wedding, they stood up and introduced themselves by explaining, “Hi, we’re Sheryl’s younger brother and sister … but we’re not really her younger brother and sister. We’re her first employees—employee No. 1 and employee No. 2.”
From a very young age, I liked to organize—the toys in my room, neighborhood play sessions, clubs at school. When I was in junior high and running for class vice president, one of my teachers pulled my best friend aside to warn her not to follow my example: “Nobody likes a bossy girl,” the teacher warned. “You should find a new friend who will be a better influence on you.”
From the above description, Sheryl was a headstrong little girl who always knew what she was good at. That’s fantastic, and I’d like to note she is still striving to the head of the class today. I appreciate her sharing her stories and her interest in cultivating and mentoring other female leaders. I worry that she is teaching them the wrong lesson, but I agree with the goal and see this an opportunity to show girls we care about them. It is the one category we lost to Obama in exit polling.
Republicans champion individuals who aspire to be the best and make a difference. We aren’t too fond of teachers who meddle with and discourage entrepreneurial behavior because it makes classroom management so much easier. We are proud to say our communities and private enterprises can serve people better than a strong central governing body. So let’s thank Sheryl Sandberg for telling her story without involving the government.
It’s unlikely a political party will continue to be successful with women under 30, who are going to college in unprecedented numbers, by talking out of two sides of its mouth; On one hand championing hard work and entrepreneurial spirit, and on the other hand downplaying that same role as “merely keep the bills paid, enabling their wives to do the really important work of raising a family.” Eventually, one party or the other in that equation will decide that you are being less than genuine.
Women wanting to run their own businesses mean more women appreciating a platform of low taxes, less regulation, and less corporate cronyism that keeps out new entrants. Empowering women means teaching them to embrace free markets and the flexibility and financial options it generates to lift people out of poverty. Allowing those who have a talent for innovation and leadership to do so regardless of gender is good for society. Their work benefits us all many times over. Henry Ford invented the concept that everyone should have a car. Bill Gates defied IBM logic at the time and saw a world where everyone would have a computer. Margaret Thatcher was the “Iron Lady” who stood strong against Soviet aggression and progressives in her own country. Successful leaders tend to be revolutionaries who don’t see the world the way the majority of us do. It is likely that many, if they were women, were called “bossy” at some point. Male innovators also get push back, with different names, but it’s the same phenomenon. Standing out from the crowd is a universally unpopular thing until it’s popular. Ms. Sandberg misses that point in her assumption this is a female-specific problem.
If there are boys or girls who show an aptitude for invention and innovation, we should have schools that encourage that behavior. Developing leadership isn’t just a woman’s issue. It’s time for women to let go of worrying about “what’s expected” and stop assuming that this type of rejection is somehow uniquely female, and instead of banning bossy, work together to build opportunity. Ban Bossy may be a version of Otter’s cry
“I think that this situation absolutely requires a really futile and stupid gesture be done on somebody’s part!
but Republicans have the best ideas out there on how to improve education, promote leadership and create opportunity and we should grab every opportunity and platform that shares that vision. The millennials are up for grabs, and perhaps it’s time to have something to say to young women. If we don’t, the world will be filled with the voices of women who champion government as the path to success for women and yet another group of Americans will be taught to settle for less.
But I do know how Sheryl and Anna feel. As a kid, I always played Batman with the neighborhood boys and one day I got annoyed and said I wanted to be Batman and was told I couldn’t be because Batman was a boy. So I said – “Fine, I’m Batgirl but I’m in charge”. None of the boys objected.
You want to be in charge? Try asking.