Sheryl Sandberg launches ‘Ban Bossy’ campaign to encourage female leadership

Facebook's COO Sheryl Sandberg #banbossy

Facebook's COO Sheryl Sandberg (Photo: CNN)

Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg has said in recent interviews that she doesn’t like a word she said is often used to describe little girls — what she referred to as “the other B word” in a feature for The Wall Street Journal.

Sandberg, author of “Women, Work and the Will Lead,” has made it part of her professional mission to empower young girls and encourage them to aspire to leading professional roles across industries.

And, in an interview with NPR’s “All Things Considered,” she announced her next initiative to foster female leadership, a public service campaign focused on ridding the word “bossy” as a descriptive for young girls.

“This is a very negative experience for girls, if you look at my childhood, if you look at the childhood of most of the leaders we talked to, they lived through being told they were bossy,” Sandberg told NPR. “It has such a strongly female, and such a strongly negative connotation, that we thought the best way to raise awareness was to say, ‘This isn’t a word we should use. Let’s start encouraging girls to lead.’”

Sandberg has taken her message to the Internet, launching a website devoted to the “Ban Bossy” 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,’” stated the site. “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.”

Using the hashtag #banbossy, Sandberg and her colleagues expressed the hope to spread the word about their efforts to rid mainstream vocabulary of the word when referring to young, ambitious girls.

Anna Maria Chávez, Girl Scouts of the USA chief executive officer, also participated in The Wall Street Journal interview, adding to Sandberg’s sentiments and expressing her concern with the negative connotations the word “bossy” can impart on girls.

She told the newspaper that the word has suggested female and negative implications for over a century, including a citation in the Oxford English Dictionary that uses the example “There was a lady manager who was dreadfully bossy.”