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ADVANCE Perspective: Nurses

Will Banning ‘Bossy’ Make Better Nurse Leaders?

Published March 31, 2014 4:21 PM by Linda Jones
As a primarily female industry, nurses should have a lot to say about the movement to ban the word bossy as a way to "empower girls to lead."

Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook, claims that when used to describe young girls, bossy is a negative put-down that prevents girls from pursuing leadership. Sandberg has gotten support from former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Girl Scouts CEO Anna Maria Chávez, among others. They've launched a public service campaign to make the change (see banbossy.com).

Do they think banning this word will solve gender inequality, which is ultimately what they are aiming for? I know their plan is not quite that simple, but that is the basis of it.

I agree there may be a time in a child's life when name-calling (or exclusion, or any of the other things kids do to each other), shapes a child's behaviors or actions. But it can happen to both boys and girls, and in many cases it probably has a momentary impact. The reasons why girls become less assertive in different phases on their development is much more complex than name calling. Plus, how many times have negative situations actually made people stronger?

Girls (or boys) who are bossy are not going to stop being bossy just because we can't call them that. Their bossy behavior won't be rewarded so how is this ban empowering girls to lead?

In a commentary on the movement, Yahoo Finance blogger Jeff Macke noted, "Children are leaders if others follow them and bossy if they push other kids around inappropriately." It would be more proactive to teach girls how to be leaders and to show them role models of female leaders - and to show them the difference between being bossy and being a leader.

Assertive females are threatening to some people and the words used to describe them often begin with B. They may not be nice, but assertive women - and especially if they are also leaders - can take it. We describe pushy boys and assertive men in business with insulting words, too and they start with a variety of letters.

Words have definitions, people give them meaning. Let's teach our youngsters to be respectful to each other and encourage them to be cooperative. And when we see a leader emerging, whether it's on the playground, in the classroom or in the workplace, let's give them the tools to succeed.

"I was called bossy when I was in ninth grade," Sandberg recalled ... Today she's the COO of Facebook. Sounds to me like bossy worked for her.

posted by Linda Jones

1 comments

"[...]Plus, how many times have negative situations actually made people stronger?"

The negative situation itself may not make the person stronger. Rather, it might bring out the strength or other qualities that might not previously been aware of, in themselves or in others. And it is the affect and the support and validation that people may have and find.

Nursing is a strongly collegial profession! Yes, respect and co-operation are built into it and reinforced in each individual and collective decision.

"Assertive females are threatening to some people and the words used to describe them often begin with B. They may not be nice, but assertive women - and especially if they are also leaders - can take it. We describe pushy boys and assertive men in business with insulting words, too and they start with a variety of letters."

Yes, and the lack of variety for young women can get them down. And it could be a give-and-take. But because they can take it, does it mean they should?

"And when we see a leader emerging, whether it's on the playground, in the classroom or in the workplace, let's give them the tools to succeed."

I definitely agree with encouraging emerging leaders and the people around them. And tools, unlike words, can be flexible.

Adelaide March 31, 2014 8:05 PM

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