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Some question Sheryl Sandberg's Ban Bossy campaign

By Leanne Italie

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, March 20 2014 8:07 p.m. MDT

Koplewicz said research shows teen girls are more likely than boys to have symptoms of mental health issues, some related to low self-esteem. Yet girls also tend to do better than boys in school, getting better grades and earning degrees in higher numbers. Despite their academic success, women hold only a fraction of top executive positions, a point "Lean In" emphasizes.

But were female executives seen as bossy growing up, and did they suffer under the weight of the word? "At the moment there is no direct research that categorizes the word bossy as dangerous," said Koplewicz, who generally supports Sandberg's campaign to promote female leadership but not so much the focus on the lone word.

The focus wasn't lost on Hillary Rodham Clinton. She spoke to a gathering of book publishers Wednesday about a memoir she's working on covering her years as U.S. secretary of state. Clinton threw out "Bossy Pantsuit" as a possible title, riffing on Tina Fey's best-selling "Bossypants," then she paused and earned laughs for her punch line: "We can no longer say one of those words."

Maura Ciammetti, 26, works for a small technology company in suburban Philadelphia. She said being called bossy at times in college and work situations allowed her to "step back and assess how I am approaching a situation. Was I too forceful? Am I listening to my peers? Am I looking at the big picture? Why is this person challenging me with this label?"

Instead of banning the word, Ciammetti said, what "if we taught girls how to deal with their peers calling them names and other situations of adversity."

Julia Angelen Joy, 42, a Girl Scout troop leader and mother of four in Boise, Idaho, works in public relations and marketing, where lots of women dominate and where she has encountered many a bossy female boss. She calls them "chictators." She can't get behind the Ban Bossy project.

"Bossy can mean two things — a strong leader or a domineering nag. Using the word in a campaign is a double-edge sword," Joy said.

Joy, who is president of "FemCity Boise," part of the national Femfessionals business network for women, said she was a bossy teen and has two bossy girls. When her 16-year-old was 11, mom forced her to write a letter of apology to her school principal and others for participating in a "mean girl situation" of intimidation and control against other girls.

"I told her as a woman, as a mother, as a sister, as a wife, none of this is acceptable," said Joy, who suggests a tweak to the Ban Bossy rallying cry: "How about Ban Bossy, support kindness."

As Joy sees it, and it's likely Sandberg would agree (she declined an interview with The Associated Press): "There's a middle to all of this. The middle is a little bit of restraint and a little bit of kindness. We want that for all of our children, male or female."

Follow Leanne Italie on Twitter at http://twitter.com/litalie.

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