A Message From Sheryl Sandberg, DVF, And Beyonce: Stop Calling Girls “Bossy”

A collaboration between Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In and Girl Scouts aims to encourage girls to seek leadership roles.

A recent Pantene shampoo ad from the Philippines asked why an authoritative man was the boss but women with the same qualities are often labeled “bossy”? Now a group of achievers has created a public service campaign called Ban Bossy to dispel the stigma against leadership qualities in girls.


Ban Bossy is a partnership between Sheryl Sandberg’s LeanIn.Org and Girl Scouts of the USA and through its website, #banbossy hashtag, educational materials, this PSA and endorsements by celebrities and others, hopes to draw attention to the ways girls and women are discouraged from leading and offer educational resources to give parents, teachers, troop leaders, and managers hands-on strategies for supporting female leadership.

Another spot by Lifetime Television stars Beyoncé, Jennifer Garner, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson, Jane Lynch, Diane von Furstenberg and others.

For the PSA “Change the Story,” the organization enlisted agency BBDO New York after Sandberg reached out to BBDO’s CEO Andrew Robertson to ask if it might be able to assist with the campaign (BBDO Guerrero had created the aforementioned Pantene shampoo spot).

BBDO New York managing director Kirsten Flanik says the goal was to show how negative stereotypes can undermine a younger girl’s chances to be successful later in life and highlight the unfair differences between how girls and boys are perceived.

“The idea, which was led by Senior Creative Director Julianna Cobb, came about because we knew that the story was bigger than words,” says Flanik. “We wanted to show the large scale, profound impact those words can lead to when they minimize a girl’s or woman’s confidence and make her think twice about her ambitions. And instead of portraying girls as powerless victims, we wanted to show how their inherent power and ambition to do great things later on hangs in the balance of the messages they receive right now. The future is a much different place, vastly improved, by girls who are encouraged to lead.”

Organizations like Teach for America, Common Sense Media, National Council of La Raza (NCLR), AARP, Free the Children, Babble, BlogHer, Pantene, and others will be promoting Ban Bossy to their audiences. Getty Images, which already features a Lean In Collection devoted to powerful imagery of women and girls, has also expanded the collection with new images focused on girls’ leadership, searchable under the term “BanBossy.”

About the author

Jeff Beer is a staff editor at Fast Company, covering advertising, marketing, and brand creativity. He lives in Toronto.