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EVANSVILLE – According to the Girl Scouts of the USA and Lean In, a national nonprofit that seeks to empower women to achieve their ambitions, when a little boy asserts himself, he is called a leader. But, they say, when a little girl asserts herself, she is called “bossy.”
The groups say that starting at a surprisingly young age, cultural gender expectations discourage girls from leadership.
When a young girl asserts herself in the manner expected of boys, they say, she risks being branded bossy – a precursor to other offensive and dismissive descriptors such as “aggressive,” “angry,” and “overly ambitious.”
According to a study of the Girl Scouts Research Institute, by the time girls begin middle-school, they are less interested in leadership roles than boys because they fear being disliked.
“Girls are twice as likely as boys to avoid leadership roles for fear of being deemed ‘bossy’ by their peers,” explains Anna Maria Chávez, chief executive officer of Girl Scouts of the USA. “At Girl Scouts, we want to bring adults and girls together to empower them as our next generation of leaders.”
Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO and founder of LeanIn.org, said “We need to recognize the ways we systematically discourage leadership in girls from a young age—and instead, we need to encourage them to lead.”
“Girl Scouts of Southwest Indiana is very pleased that Lean In has partnered with Girl Scouts to raise awareness…of the importance of helping girls develop into leaders, in their own lives, in the community, and in the world,” said the council’s chief executive officer, Jan Davies.
“The program materials which (we) have developed include activities that our local Girl Scouts will use to underscore the program’s message.”
As part of the campaign, Lifetime TV will air a public service announcement with appearances by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, performer Beyoncé, actress Jennifer Gardner and Chávez and Sandberg.
At banbossy.com, visitors can take the pledge to ban bossy, share facts and figures on girls’ leadership and download leadership tips encouraging girls and women to lead at home, at school, and at work.
“We want all girls to know they can be anything they want to be. Whether your girl seeks to be the chief executive of the world’s largest company or the executive of her family at home, the time to ban bossy is now – and the campaign should start at home. So the next time you have the urge to call your little girl ‘bossy,’” said Sandberg, “take a deep breath and say, ‘My daughter has executive leadership skills.’”