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Will ‘Banning Bossy’ Improve Young Women’s Future Leadership Potential?

Category: Pro-Opinion, Leadership, banning bossy

The Ban Bossy Campaign | Leadership Potential

Sticks and Stones May Break Your Bones but Will ‘Banning Bossy’ Improve Young Women’s Future Leadership Potential?

Last week Lord Davies published the third annual progress report into Women on Boards, which showed that the number of Women on FTSE 100 boards is reported to have reached a record high, with women now accounting for 20.7% of FTSE 100 executive board positions. This annual report charts the progress made by FTSE 100 companies in reaching the target Lord Davies’ target set of 25% by 2015.

This year’s progress report shows than the number of women on board is up from 17.3% in April 2013. In all, women account for 231 of the 1,117 FTSE100 board positions and women account for 28% of all board appointments in 2013/14.

One characteristic which all women in senior positions possess is leadership. In this month’s blog we want to address the issue of leadership by looking at the recent ‘Ban Bossy’ campaign and discuss whether the campaign could Improve Young Women’s Future Leadership Potential.

As children we are told ‘sticks and stones may break your bones, but words can never hurt you’, but it is suggested by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s ‘Ban Bossy’ campaign, that the word ‘bossy’ is affecting young girl’s leadership potential, discouraging them from speaking up and being heard.

The Ban Bossy Campaign

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg has launched a campaign against the commonplace use of the word ‘bossy’. According to Sandberg and the women involved in her campaign — Beyoncé, Jennifer Garner, Diane von Furstenberg and Condoleezza Rice to name a few — society needs to “recognise the many ways we systematically discourage leadership in girls from a young age.”

When a little boy asserts himself, he's called a “leader.” Yet when a little girl does the same, she risks being branded ‘bossy.’ Words like bossy send a message: don't raise your hand or speak up. By middle school, girls are less interested in leading than boys - a trend that continues into adulthood. Together we can encourage girls to lead.

- Ban Bossy website

By middle school, girls are less interested in leading than boys - a trend that continues into adulthood. Between elementary and high school, girls’ self–esteem drops 3.5 times more than boys'. This could provide a reason for the difference in self-reported “ambition levels” for girls at the beginning of their careers, as a recent study from the Centre for Work-Life Policy showed that 47% of young women claim to be “very ambitious” at the start of their careers vs 62% of young men.

The Ban Bossy campaign attempts to address the root of the problem: the assignment of conflicting labels to boys and girls at the earliest stages of education. Ban Bossy finds fault with the fact that the same behaviour by a boy will earn him a positive title and a girl a negative one. It is much more than simply banning the use of a word. It is about equality.

Lord Davies target for FTSE 100 boards to be made up of 25% women by 2015 is certainly the most high profile initiative being put in place for gender equality at senior levels, but there are hundreds more as the business case for diversity is more widely recognised. One of the most common objections to the promotion of female talent into senior positions is that there isn’t the pipeline of talent flowing throughout the business. Admittedly there are other factors in the equation, but the lasting impact that branding young girls as being ‘bossy’ has on their future leadership potential is unknown. The ‘Ban Bossy’ campaign leaders advise that “The next time you have the urge to call your little girl bossy? Take a deep breath and praise her leadership skills instead.”

The campaign has received a mixed response to date. Opponents of the campaign have fixated on the word ‘bossy’ and its use for describing young girls, claiming that young girls who are labelled as being bossy are not being leaders, they are being bullies. Opponents also highlight how banning a word gives it more power.

In reality, the campaign goes much deeper than the ‘Ban Bossy’ slogan and the actual banning of the word. The focus of the campaign is on gender equality and the barriers for females to establish themselves in to leadership positions. Whatever your views on the Ban Bossy campaign, it’s fair to say that it has provided a global media platform for debate on female leadership and barrier, which if nothing else can only be a good thing.

Will We Ban Bossy?

As a company Equal Approach hold many values based on equality and inclusion, which are reflected by all of our team.  Therefore we wouldn’t feel the need to ‘ban bossy’ as we feel it has no place in the workplace for describing men or women.

This article was orginally published by Equal Approach. To read the original article, click here.

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VERCIDA works with over one hundred clients who are committed to creating an inclusive work environment. If you are an employer and interested in working with VERCIDA to promote your diversity and inclusion initiatives and attract the best candidates, please email [email protected] for more information.

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