BOSSY -To Be Or Not To Be – Is This Really The Question?

BOSSY -To Be Or Not To Be – Is This Really The Question?

I found myself in a very strange situation this week – I actually agreed with Sun Columnist and media personality Katie Hopkins on all this furore around banning the word ‘bossy’ for girls and women alike. This campaign is being spearheaded by Sheryl Sandberg and I cannot help but think this is just another empty media campaign to raise her profile as a champion for women in the workplace.
Hopkins says ‘trying to protect girls by banning things, like words, will not help. Equipping them to deal with the tough stuff is far more effective. Teaching a vocabulary they can use to promote and project themselves is far wiser than pointing out words some don’t like and lecturing others not to use them.’ And I agree.

To say that the thought of being seen as bossy is holding girls back and turning them off leadership positions is a massive sweeping statement and I am not sure it is backed up by ANY research or facts?

To be honest being seen as bossy does not seem to have held Sandberg back nor any of the other women she has harnessed to sell the message on her campaign VT including Beyoncé who simply says ‘I am not bossy, I am the boss’ don’t cha just love her!

Whilst I appreciate the sentiments of Sandberg’s latest rant I cannot help but feel talk is cheap, I asked for her support for Girls Out Loud when she first published her book Lean In and discussed her passion to encourage more girls to lean in to their careers, the reply from her campaign office was classic- thanks, you are doing great work now can you set up a lean in circle for your network? Really? How does that inspire girls then?

Young girls need role models, successful women, comfortable in their own skin, willing to share they stories, warts and all. It isn’t all rosy out there and girls need confidence, self esteem and resilience to carve their own path. We are doing them a disservice if we pretend the battle is won and all they have to do is change a few words in their vocabulary and leadership positions will be without challenges!

If you are such a role model and interested in changing the landscape for teenage girls have a look at we do more than talk!


  1. thetomhayes

    I can’t agree more. Words or phrases, their elimination or use, are not going to achieve the desired result while the real issues fester beneath the surface. This campaign mirrors one of the battle cries of nascent feminism in the days of the Steinem’s and Brown’s et. al. “We are not girls; we are women!” I stepped on that land mine numerous times whilst thinking I was walking into a field of heather. Out of nowhere, ‘BAM’, the finger pointing offended ‘girl’ would scream the shibboleth into my callow and unsuspecting face. Interesting that the attack came from the umbrage that a few of the leaders decided was a malicious slur, an intended disabling barb. Never was there a dialogue about what the term ‘girl’ meant or its intention. As a male, it was a term of endearment much in the way you Brits have when ‘Love’ or ‘Bird’ is uttered. The word, ‘girl’ elicited an image of a young, vibrant, female in the male’s eye. Whether the ‘girl’ was six or sixty. To the speaker it was a complement not an invective. To the listener, it was a red flag; the first shot to instigate a donnybrook. All the feminists had to do was to eliminate the term and the healing would begin.

    And, so now it’s ‘Bossy’. Really? Really? Is that going to fix the issue whatever that might be? Not! It will only initiate the furor that ‘girl’ did and bring more distance to those engaged in whatever this battle is about. As an executive for a Fortune 500 International company, four of my seven
    account reps were female. I hired on talent and drive-nothing else. The females were my top achievers- consistently. No body was ‘bossy’, especially me. The approach was teamwork. The results were stellar. Our ‘team’ delivered in the top five percent- always.

    And, so for those who have the time to target a term, have fun. And after, you eliminate ‘bossy’ and ‘girl’ maybe you can begin to see the hidden derogatory and demeaning meaning behind, ‘Love’ and ‘Bird’. Meanwhile, I gotta go see what my ‘girl’ is up to.

  2. janekenyon

    well said Tom – great to have a male perspective here!


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