Tips on Tuesday: Bossy Girls vs. Girl Leaders

Easy as A, B, C . . . from BB

In the Parade Magazine of 3/09/14, Lynn Sherr wrote an article called “Leading by Example,” where she’d interviewed three high‑powered and influential women on both U.S. and world leadership roles women should have: former secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice; Anna Maria Chavez, the CEO of the Girls Scouts of the USA; and Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO and author of Lean in, a memoir/call-to-action bestseller for a year now.

I loved some of their quotes, and had to share. After all, we writers who are women (and there are MANY of us), can join this in the way we act, and the way we write. We, too, can empower the upcoming generation.

Their immediate goal, and ours could be this too, is to ban the word “bossy,” which too often discourages girls and/or women from speaking up.

Rice said “We are trying to get at the subtleties, the messages that keep girls from achieving . . .”

Chavez claims that “I’m raising an 11‑year‑old son and 2 million girls . . . We need to create an even playing field for everyone.

I loved Rice telling about how her parents encouraged her (wish I’d thought of this with MY daughter): “My parents elected me president of the family when I was 4. We actually had an election every year and I always won. I’m an only child, and I could count on my mother’s vote. But the role had substantive responsibility. I would call meetings where we’d decide things like what color to paint the living room. As I got older, I realized that what my parents were doing was sending messages about leadership potential.”

Chavez said her mother taught her brothers how to cook, and taught her how to run a board meeting. Her mother, as elected official, took her to meetings where she could see “how leadership played out.” Later, Chavez’s husband was yelled at when the family went to support her campaigns: “Put your woman in her place!”

Her husband’s answer? “This is her place. Her place is to lead.”

Sandberg’s parents let her know she could do everything, but she said the rest of the messages, from ‘society’ were pretty negative on leadership.

Even the article’s author, Lynn Sherr, put in her two cents’ worth saying when she first got to New York in her 20s, EVERY newspaper editor told her “We don’t hire girls.

When 6‑year‑old Rice was told by her friend, “Oh, you’re just so bossy,” she remembers thinking that was not a good thing. She WAS bossy, “but in a good way. The word has a bad connotation.”

Sandberg countered with “. . . tell parents instead of saying, ‘My daughter is bossy,’ try, ‘My daughter has executive leadership skills.” She went on to say that no one has been able to say that without laughing. However, when they’ve said “My son has executive leadership skills,” there’s no humor in that sentence. A revelation about what our expectations are.

All seemed to agree that we need to start young. Here’s why: at the age of 4, her daughter asked, “Mommy, why are all the presidents boys?” And another example: we’ve now had three women as secretaries of state, and “people still say, ‘female secretary of state.'”

Parting shots: Rice said, “Leadership is hard because everybody who doesn’t actually want to do it wants to tell you how to do it. You’d better have a thick skin.”

Chavez: “They [girls] are ready to lead. I see girls lobbying town hall to build a safer crosswalk for their elementary school . . . when I was a kid [my world] was my backyard. Their world is the globe. It’s time.

Rice: “. . . it doesn’t matter where you come from; it matters where you’re going. Our job is to make certain the pathways are open to both our boys and our girls.”

See you next on Thinkin’ on Thursday!

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