By now, you’ve almost certainly heard (or watched) the #BanBossy campaign, Sheryl Sandberg’s attempt to ban the word from our vocab and encourage girls to lead. And, you’ve definitely heard of the Girl Scouts. In fact, you probably support them through your yearly purchase of Thin Mints, but how exactly did these two groups create a campaign and a PSA that’s had over one billion views?
Girl Scouts joined forces with Sheryl Sandburg’s Lean In Foundation to create the Ban Bossy campaign. Where did the idea for the Ban Bossy campaign start, and how was it turned into a reality?
Sheryl started it! When she was a girl, she wasn’t that into playing. Instead, she enjoyed — and no doubt rocked at — organizing her peers’ play. In middle school, a teacher told Sheryl’s best friend, "Nobody likes a bossy girl. You should find a new friend who will be a better influence on you." Fast forward to the summer of 2013, when Sheryl, who’d recently published her bestseller Lean In, cold-called Girl Scouts' CEO Anna Maria Chávez and said, “Hey Anna, I have this idea…”
Anna thought Ban Bossy was brilliant and brought it straight to our team. We all thought it was brilliant, too. We all grew up being called “bossy,” and we know it’s something that a lot of girls — especially Girl Scouts! — still deal with today.
What was the first step in creating this campaign, and what was your role in Ban Bossy?
As the largest girl-serving organization in the world, Girl Scouts is a true thought leader when it comes to girls. And, our own Girl Scout Research Institute (GSRI) makes us a huge asset to campaigns like Ban Bossy. Very early in our involvement with Ban Bossy, the GSRI was able to determine that being labeled “bossy” is a big, definable issue for women, not just something that gets them riled up.
Our research shows what happens when girls are labeled bossy, underscoring the need for a campaign like Ban Bossy and a rethinking of the way we as a society treat girls when they assert themselves. The findings are shocking:
Between ages 8 and 17, one-third of girls avoid leadership roles because they are afraid that they will be disliked or labeled bossy.
Then girls’ self-esteem drops. Between elementary and high school it actually plunges — 350 percent more severely than it does for boys.
The result? Girls get less airtime in class. They are interrupted more than boys and get called upon less.
As Sheryl says, girls put their hands down. And, by addressing where the "bossy" problem begins (girlhood), Girl Scouts was able to contribute thought leadership, data, and tools to help make everyone a part of the “bossy” solution.
What was your specific role in creating the campaign? What did you do with the GSRI data?
My role in the Ban Bossy campaign was — the boss. Seriously. I found ways to leverage Girl Scouts’ assets and resources in carrying out the campaign. We developed troop activities and tips for girls, as well as cool Ban Bossy swag. Plus, the research we commissioned from the GSRI allowed us to give voice to girls’ experiences, including how being called bossy impacts them. We also worked with Lean In to, together, use our powerful brands and communications muscle to start a national conversation about what is holding too many girls back from leading.
What are the ingredients to a successful online campaign?
Sheryl Sandberg! And, anything that deeply strikes a chord. Ban Bossy works because you don’t have to convince people of its premise. We all know. Adult women remember the outrage, confusion, and hurt of being called bossy as a girl. Heartbreakingly, today’s girls can tell you about it just as well. That’s why we got so many amazing spokespeople instantly on board — Beyoncé, Jennifer Garner, and Condoleeza Rice.
What was the process for getting these spokespeople on board?
Ban Bossy was a massive undertaking, and its partners all brought something amazing to the table. Lifetime raised its hand to direct and produce a star-studded PSA, and so many powerful women (and men!) participated, which really took the campaign to another level. I mean, the Queen Bey herself wanted to Ban Bossy!
What effect has Ban Bossy had?
Our campaign to “ban bossy” really took off, with over a billion people exposed to it. Most importantly, the Ban Bossy campaign started a national conversation about girls and leadership in this country. Whether they thought banning a word was a good idea or a bad one, people were talking about the barriers to leading that too many girls face and what we as concerned adults can do about it. And, that’s a win in my book.
What’s next for Ban Bossy?
Ban Bossy started the conversation — now we need to turn those words into action. We need more caring adults to take the pledge to Ban Bossy, keeping in mind that bossy is the “little B word.” All of us need to be intentional with our words and take time to consider the implications of how we refer to people and their behaviors.
Authored by Tori Latham.