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To Ban Bossy or Not to Ban Bossy: That Is the Question

By Gabriella Khorasanee, JD on March 17, 2014 11:59 AM

First, there was a debate about what direction women should lean, and now, the debate of the month is whether we should "ban bossy" or not.

The Ban Bossy Campaign

Ban Bossy? Yes, if you haven't heard it's the new campaign from Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In Foundation, was trending last week on Twitter and Facebook, has Beyonce as a spokesperson and is in partnership with the Girl Scouts of America. Here's the gist of the campaign:

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.

Since the campaign has grabbed headlines, many have come out against the campaign for a number of ideological reasons. From reading what people on both sides of the ban have to say, and since we're in Women's History Month, here are some takeaways for you and your firm colleagues.

We All Want the Same Thing

It's annoying funny that many people only become vocal about women's rights and opportunities when they want to criticize someone else's successful campaign to bring certain issues to light. Here's what they won't tell you: we all want the same thing. Everyone on each side of the equation wants girls to have the same opportunities as boys, and to not be dissuaded from taking on leadership roles. The fact that the campaign is getting people talking means that it's successful.

Keep this going at your own firm by looking not just at the policies, but at the outcomes in your workplace. How many women partners? How many senior associates? What percentage of new hires?

Ban Bossy at Your Law Firm

If you're reading this, you may well be the boss of your own firm, and clearly were not afraid of the term bossy. Whatever the case, whether you are male or female, don't discourage the women in your firm from taking on leadership roles at your firm. You probably wouldn't do that knowingly, but be careful of terminology ("bitchy" is the grown-up version of "bossy"), and try to use an objective standard when it comes to reviewing work product and aggressiveness.

Ban Bossy at Home

As someone who was called "bossy" (but didn't flinch), I've been guilty of calling my almost-4 year old bossy -- and I've stopped. I still reprimand my daughter if she takes things to far, but why should I call her bossy for getting things done? Or taking charge when all the other 4-year olds need some leadership? Rather than calling her bossy, I'll praise her. And for future women leaders, you should support your daughters -- and your up and coming colleagues -- as well.

Because I said so.

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