What about those “Bossy” Girls?

Photo of Rachel Parent, Kids Right To Know Founder.


There’s been a lot written about “Bossy” lately, but as a former girl and now a big girl in charge, I wanted to weigh in on why I think this is something we should keep talking about.

When Sheryl Sandberg came out with her book on women in leadership, Lean In, there was much talk about what makes great women leaders.  Within that conversation came the discussion about assertive girls being called “Bossy”, while boys are called leaders and go-getters.

Coming from a family of 3 “Bossy” girls whom my dad groomed very carefully to take charge and not be afraid of helping others to achieve what they set out to do,  I think it’s fair to say that anytime someone has made a reference to my ability to lead, including being called a bulldog by other senior managers in my advertising career, I have proudly worn the badge of “ Bossy”, but a recent conversation with a peer has made me realize that not everyone was taught to embrace this tag the same way and society at large can be cruel once the title is attached.

While I don’t agree with the recent dialogue on banning the word “Bossy”, like you could ever really do that but nice job of keeping the conversation going, I do think there is value in having us move away socially from labeling young girls with this tag, which in many cases ensures they feel self conscious enough to shrink back and not follow their natural leadership inclinations.

Anytime we begin to hold back who we truly are in order to “fit in” or make others feel more comfortable, we are setting ourselves up for a world of confusion and hurt.

Norway has recently passed a law requiring companies to have women on boards of directors, of all companies, while the newest research isn’t conclusive it’s trending positively.  You might think this was an equal opportunity bill, nope, they’re following the other data that says companies which have women in senior leadership positions are doing better economically. The fact is that women come with a different perspective and all great creative thinkers know that diversity is the way to creating bigger thinking and problem solving.


So my advice to parents is to nurture those “little miss bossy pants” girls, because the world needs more of them in order to thrive.  I do want to take this moment to say that there is a big difference between being a “bossy” girl and being a mean girl, and we should make sure that they know the difference. We don’t want them leading without putting their best emotional intelligence in play.  It’s one of our greatest strengths and should be promoted in order to help ourselves and others succeed authentically.


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