As a young girl, Sheryl Sandberg was called “bossy” — which didn’t exactly hold back the Facebook COO and self-made billionaire too much. Still, to her, it was an insidious term designed largely to undercut women’s voices. Applied largely to ambitious women — men would be called confident — she thinks the word bossy implies that women have to be more amenable to succeed. Then, when she heard her son call his sister bossy, Sandberg said she realized the issue was bigger than she could tackle alone.

Today, on the one-year anniversary of her career advice book, “Lean In,” Sandberg’s nonprofit LeanIn.org and the Girl Scouts are launching “Ban Bossy,” a campaign to eliminate the word altogether.

There’s a pledge, whereby hitting a red “I will Ban Bossy” button adds a link to your social media of choice. There are tips sites for GirlsParentsTeachers and Managers. And, rolling out the celebs, the Ban Bossy PSA features Beyoncé, Jane Lynch, Jennifer Garner and Condoleezza Rice, among others, in a lively take on the subject.

“I’m not bossy, I’m the boss,” declares Beyoncé. She’s got that right.

And, of course, because she is also the boss, there is a Sandberg op-ed in The Wall Street Journal that compares bossy to the other B-word.

Whether or not the word bossy disappears, it could with Sandberg pushing — there is no question the phrase “lean in” that she coined is now a pretty impactful meme.

Here’s the PSA:

And, during her talk at the Makers Conference for exceptionally powerful women last month, Sandberg spoke about why, when describing men and women, people use different words for the same behavior. She referenced this Pantene ad:



3 comments
LawrenceGarvin
LawrenceGarvin

Is this all the more Sandberg has to do with her time. Aren't there enough problems with the Facebook *platform* and *operations* to keep her busy?


As for "bossy" vs "confident" being gender differential.. that's a load of crap. Sheryl was likely called "bossy" when she was younger because she behaved poorly in such situations. A *leader* does not need to tell people what to do; a "bossy" person does so with extreme annoyance and arrogance. (And, come to think of it, Sandberg does strike me as being a bit arrogant as well.)


Yes, it's supposed to be an "insidious term", but it's not intended to undercut anybody's voices.. it's designed to recognize a character flaw that needs to be fixed forthwith!


I have an 11-year old daughter ... if I ever observed her engaging in what I consider to be "bossy" behavior, she and I would be engaging in some behavior remediation programs.


As for the other 'b' word... I'd say "bossy" is equivalent to "the other 'b' word in training". I.e. "the other 'b' word" is what a "bossy" person becomes when they're not properly reined in when they should be.

RS9
RS9

I am sick and tired of Sheryl sandberg. Ok we understand you are smart and made billions of dollars. Thanks but no thanks for your repetitive crap

Rocks and Gravel
Rocks and Gravel

Have we learned anything about words from the civil rights movement?  When one word is banned, another will crop up.  A better way than trying to ban a word is to educate about the word.  There are as many or more "bossy" men as there are women.  When I hear the word "bossy", I think of my children and what "bossy" really means.  It is a person who is trying to control another without the underlying authority.