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Girl Scouts and Partner to “Ban Bossy”

March 10, 2014

When a little boy asserts himself, he is called a leader. When a little girl asserts herself, she is called “bossy.”

Starting at a surprisingly young age, cultural gender expectations discourage girls from leadership. When a young girl asserts herself in the manner expected of boys, she risks being branded bossy—a precursor to other offensive and dismissive descriptors such as “aggressive,” “angry,” and “overly ambitious.”

Research on girls and leadership is devastatingly clear. According to a study the Girl Scouts Research Institute conducted, by middle school girls are less interested in leadership roles than boys because they fear being disliked. Indeed, 53% of Girl Scouts have been called bossy at least once, and teachers are more likely to ask a Girl Scout to lead at school because of her well-developed leadership skills.  

“Girls are twice as likely as boys to avoid leadership roles for fear of being deemed ‘bossy’ by their peers,” explains Anna Maria Chávez, CEO of Girl Scouts of the USA. “At Girl Scouts, we want to bring adults and girls together to empower them as our next generation of leaders.”

Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO, author of Lean In, and founder of, believes we should encourage girls to “lean in” and let their voices be heard. “We need to recognize the ways we systematically discourage leadership in girls from a young age—and instead, we need to encourage them [to lead],” Sandberg explains.

“I can think of no better time to start this conversation than during the week of our 102nd birthday,” said Mary Barneby, CEO, Girl Scouts of Connecticut. “As we prepare to commemorate 102 years of Girl Scouting in Connecticut, it’s also a time to reflect upon how far women have come and how far we have yet to go. Girls must realize their incredible leadership potential and not be afraid to be the boss! I am pledging to “ban bossy” and hope that many in Connecticut will do so too!”

As part of the Ban Bossy campaign, Lifetime TV will air a “Ban Bossy” PSA with appearances by Chávez and Sandberg, as well as Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, performer Beyoncé, actress Jennifer Gardner, fashion designer Diane von Fürstenberg, and others.

The Ban Bossy campaign will be housed on a newly launched website,, where visitors can take the pledge to Ban Bossy, share facts and figures on girls’ leadership, read Ban Bossy quotes from celebrities and leaders, and download our leadership tips encouraging girls and women to lead at home, at school, and at work.

We want all girls to know they can be anything they want to be. Whether your girl seeks to be the CEO of the world’s largest company or the CEO of her family at home, the time to ban bossy is now—and the campaign should start at home. “So the next time you have the urge to call your little girl ‘bossy’?” Sandberg explains. “Take a deep breath and say, ‘My daughter has executive leadership skills.’”

About is the nonprofit organization founded by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg to empower all women to achieve their ambitions. LeanIn.Org offers inspiration and support through an online community, free expert lectures, and Lean In Circles, which are small peer groups who meet regularly and learn to grow together. Nearly 375,000 women and men have joined the community and started more than 14,000 Lean In Circles in over 50 countries since the organization was launched in March 2013 following the release of Sandberg’s bestselling book, Lean In: Women, Work and th

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