THE BLOG

Boss vs. Bossy

Mar 12, 2014 | Updated May 12, 2014

I've been asked about Sheryl Sandberg's campaign to ban the word "bossy" over and over this week because I'm one of the founders of the "She's So Boss" movement (www.shessoboss.com). The feeling seems to be that we might be threatened by the "Ban Bossy" initiative.

But you'll find no catfight here. I'm delighted by "Ban Bossy," which is an organized effort like our own that is devoting resources to publicly giving girls more attention and empowering them to fully realize their potential. It is long overdue and sorely needed.

The entire world, including the West, continues to treat girls and women inequitably -- as Sandberg points out, women represent 50 percent of the population and perform 66 percent of the world's labor, but they earn only 10 percent of the income and own just 1 percent of global goods and property. And while it's tempting to think that the modern world has changed all that, we must not be seduced into complacency -- this inequity continues to be one of today's most pressing problems. There is strong evidence to suggest that having women in leadership positions in representative numbers would go a long way toward relieving many of the world's ills, from poor education to the prevalence of violent crime, stagnant economies to malnutrition. Women's issues, it turns out, are human issues, and we can thank the so-boss Hillary Clinton for reminding us of this point.

As with any pressing issue, of course, you can explain it to someone, and substantiate it with countless facts and figures -- but until that person sees it for herself, she won't be able to truly make the fight her own. So if "Ban Bossy" and Beyoncé and the compelling collection of celebrities supporting the ban can engage young women to consider all the implications of that word in relation to themselves, it is well worth the effort. Especially since the whole point of highlighting the negative associations of the word "bossy" is to encourage girls to pursue the brass ring without fearing the stigma and implicit condemnation for having the temerity to be openly ambitious.

And that's precisely what the mission of "She's So Boss" is: to encourage young women to strive for empowerment, for ownership. For equality in all walks of life. If we can connect today's girls with female bosses around the country -- whether it's the girl who started a music festival because there were none in her city that would have her; the girl who got a public pool to re-open in an economically depressed neighborhood so kids from poor families could learn how to swim; or the girl who skied the giant slalom in Sochi as the only Olympian from the U.S. Virgin Islands -- we have created an opportunity to show the next generation just how much potential they have.

Here's another figure to help make the case: there are more than 150 million females out there in the U.S. alone, but less than 20 percent of leadership positions across all industries -- including the government -- are held by women. Clearly, we need all the help we can get in encouraging girls to reach for the top. Sure, nobody wants to be known as "bossy," but many of us want to be "the boss." Just ask Sheryl Sandberg.

When you get down to it, the "Ban Bossy" and "She's So Boss" campaigns are complementary, accretive -- the more, the better. Getting girls to recognize, and to realize, their power is the common goal. Call it what you like just so long as we all strive together to change the world for the better by giving women a representative voice and equal rewards for their efforts.

At "She's So Boss," we really see it as a pay-it-forward kind of thing, with older generations of women giving back to the girls they raise, teach, and mentor, so the cycle can perpetuate and grow. Whether you want to ban "bossy," be "so boss," or be "the boss," let's make it happen together. And yes, that's -- if you'll forgive me for being just a little bossy here -- an order.