Sheryl Sandberg wants to ban the word "bossy"

Facebook COO and Lean In author Sheryl Sandberg has launched a campaign to ban the word "bossy", saying that it deters girls from becoming leaders.

Facebook COO and Lean In author Sheryl Sandberg has launched a campaign to ban the word "bossy", saying that it deters girls from becoming leaders.

(Screenshot by Michelle Starr/CNET Australia)

Apparently the worst "B" word when it comes to women is not what you might think, according to Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg. Instead, it's the word "bossy" — and Sandberg has made it her next mission to remove the word from out vocabularies when talking about little girls.

She has launched the website Ban Bossy, which states, "When a little boy asserts himself, he's called a 'leader'. Yet when a little girl does the same, she risks being branded 'bossy'. 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."

(Credit: Shutterstock/

This isn't the first time Sandberg has spoken up about the word. She brought up the topic at TEDWomen 2013, has spoken about it during television appearances, and discussed it in depth in Lean In, her motivational book about women in the workplace.

The new campaign has support from such women as Jennifer Garner, Beyoncé, Jane Lynch, fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg, NASCAR driver Jimmie Johnson, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Girl Scouts USA CEO Anna Maria Chávez and aims to improve girls' confidence.

"We call girls bossy on the playground," Sandberg told the US ABC. "We call them too aggressive or other B-words in the workplace. They're bossy as little girls, and then they're aggressive, political, shrill, too ambitious as women. I was called bossy when I was in ninth grade. "My teacher took my best friend Mindy aside and she said, 'You shouldn't be friends with Sheryl. She's bossy'. And that hurt."

The campaign begins after a quote from Sandberg began circulating social media, attached to a Shutterstock picture of a little girl flying a toy aeroplane: "I want every little girl who is told she is bossy to be told she has leadership skills."

"Leadership is not bullying and leadership is not aggression," Sandberg said. "Leadership is the expectation that you can use your voice for good. That you can make the world a better place."

Whether or not banning a single word as applied to a single gender is the answer, however, remains to be seen.

What do you think of Sandberg's campaign? Sound off in the comments below.

About the author

Michelle Starr is the tiger force at the core of all things. She also writes about cool stuff and apps as CNET Australia's Crave editor. But mostly the tiger force thing.


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