I’m Not Bossy. I’m the Boss.

The Stigma of Female Ambition

Girl scouts are everywhere ferociously selling cookies and it reminds me of my childhood.  Back then you could purchase a box for $2.50, and I would always hustle to sell the customer an extra box get an even $5 sale. I learned a lot about leadership in girl scouts, but honestly I’ve learned more through out my medical training by simply noticing how I’m treated differently.

Men are labeled ambitious.  Women are labeled aggressive.
Men are labeled leaders.  Women are labeled bossy.
Men get powerful labels, and we get negative ones.

These types of stereotypes have been perpetuated since childhood. Powerful words like ambition and driven aren’t associated with femininity. Little girls get princess clothing, and little boys get cool astronaut clothing. In reality, Kate Middleton is the only one to achieve “princess” status, while the rest of us went for other professions not stamped on our childhood clothing.

These labels often hold back women from asking for what they want or behaving how they want in the workplace, for fear of not being liked or not being a team player.  Today there is no doubt that when asked, a woman would reply that she wants just as much career advancement, challenging projects, and promotions as her male counterparts.  A study conducted by the Girl Scouts in 2008 revealed that young girls from ages 8 to 17 purposely avoided leadership roles for fear of being labeled bossy and being disliked by their peers.

Changing Views

Sheryl Sandberg, the author of Lean In and COO of facebook, launched a#banbossy campaign in 2014 to address the unfair labeling of women.  In her book she recalled a childhood experience of being called bossy, when in reality she viewed her playground behavior as early leadership qualities.  At that time she felt she was viewed negatively because nice little girls weren’t suppose to act that way.  She was disheartened and feels that young girls shouldn’t be labeled harmfully for doing the same things that men do.  She’s not the only one.  Big names like Beyoncé, Jennifer Garner, Condoleezza Rice, and many others are behind this campaign linked with the Girl Scouts.  This campaign is trying to combat the negative deep-rooted stereotypes of how girls are discouraged when trying to assert their views.

The confidence gap: Between elementary and high school, girls’ self-esteem drops 3.5 times more than boys’.

It has also been noted that a girls’ confidence takes a huge plummet, with self-esteem rates dropping 3.5 times that of boys, from early childhood to high school.  What’s more alarming is that as these young girls enter adulthood, bossy gets replaced with another B word.  We’ve all been there.

We need to change our communities expectations for us, and our future daughters.  As women in medicine, we have a tremendous roll to help girls understand that there are no limits to what they can accomplish.  You can do that by just being you. Unapologetically. You.