With international women’s day only just last week, women in the workplace still remains a hot topic. Shadow Childcare Minister, Lucy Powell is quoted to have said that working mothers are better employees as they ‘are not sitting on Facebook or coming in with a hangover. When we are working, we are on it – and making the most of every minute of every day…’

The Feminist movement recently took a modern slant with Cheryl Sandberg’s ‘Ban Bossy’ campaign, which is admirable, but I do wonder if the alleviation of one word is really going to change the way young girls shape their views of themselves? If we stop using the word bossy, which is apparently easily replaced with the “b-word” in adulthood, are we going to be taking a step closer to getting women into leadership roles? Sandberg writes that: “We expect boys to be assertive and confident, while we expect girls to be kind and nurturing. We encourage boys to lead and reward them when they do. When girls lead, however, we disapprove—and our language communicates that disapproval clearly. 

Looking at the Ban Bossy website more closely, the quote on the front page causes me to worry. It states ‘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’. There is a clear difference between being bossy and being a leader. Raising your hand and speaking up in my mind does not equate to being bossy but to participating. Some of the character traits of both these labels are similar – such as being able to make a decision and ensure those around you are delivering what you need; sending a clear message of your expectations; asking people to complete a specific task for a specific reason.

I don’t think I was ever particularly bossy, I certainly don’t remember being called bossy but I do remember making sure my younger brother knew who the older sibling was. My parents encouraged both of us to be caring and nurturing and also taught us both that we could be whatever we wanted to be.

Another fact I found interesting in this campaign was that between primary school and secondary school, girls' self-esteem drops 3.5 times more than boys' and that by the age of 12 girls are much less interested in leading. I’m not entirely certain that changing a word is going to change how teenage girls feel. With hormones, body changes, skin problems and everything else that becoming a teenager does to a young person, the last thing on their mind is leading! While I understand where the sentiment comes from, I would think leadership and career motivations are a personal thing and whether you are male or female, some of us just don’t want to the top job, whatever our reasons.

Certainly, there are capable women in business, capable women running households and there are capable women raising little girls who are surely going to become capable women with choices in the future. ‘Ban Bossy’ for me is falling short of the work that needs to be done in educating women of all backgrounds on identifying and using their strengths and potential. Especially given there are still such massive disparity gaps between rich and poor globally, for me, banning a word in middle class homes is probably not going to do much other than give some women who have no problems being bossy, another soapbox to sing from.