In Defense of the "Bossy" Girl

Last week, LeanIn.Org and McKinsey & Company released their annual comprehensive study “Women in the Workplace.” You might think that by 2016, corporate America would have made notable progress in reaching the goal of workplace equality, right? Unfortunately, you would be wrong. It’s true that some progress has been made — the study found that women are just as likely to negotiate for a pay raise or promotion as men are, and additionally, women who do so are 54% more likely to succeed in receiving a promotion. However, the study also found that women who do choose to negotiate are 30 percent more likely than men to receive feedback calling them “intimidating” or “bossy.”  As a proud bossy girl, I found this statistic to ring particularly true.

Throughout my academic and professional career, I’ve found myself to be on the receiving end of the “bossy” insult plenty of times, as have many other women. The fact is, many people perceive traits that would be associated with leadership in men to be evidence of bossiness in women. Like most students, I’ve had to work on plenty of group projects in my time in school. I’ve always appreciated when these projects have leaders who take charge of the responsibilities of the group and allocate them as needed. Strong leadership is an imperative ingredient to success, and without it, nothing would be done effectively. Unfortunately, I’ve found that on occasions when I have tried to step up to be that leader, I’ve been met many times with resistance from other group members:

“You’re being so bossy. Why are you telling everyone what they should do?”

“Who put you in charge? You don’t have to be so assertive.”

“Why can’t you just relax?”

These are all comments that I’ve heard from both group members in school and coworkers at my previous volunteering positon. The resistance to girls in leadership positions is frustrating and needs to change. I don’t let these comments get to me, though — it’s all part of living the life of a bossy girl. If you’re reading this and those comments seemed very familiar to you, that’s not surprising, and there’s nothing wrong with it. You’re just living the same bossy girl life I am, and I’m going to tell you why that’s the best thing you can be.

If you’ve been told you’re being bossy or intimidating when you’re trying to lead, that means you’re doing it right. It is not your responsibility to tone down your leadership because you are a girl – it is the responsibility of your fellow team members to realize they are holding you to an unfair and sexist double standard. Unfortunately, combatting workplace misogyny is turning out to be a pretty tall task. The good news is, as a bossy girl, you’re exhibiting traits of leadership that will serve you greatly in the professional environment. You are willing to lead. You are willing to take responsibility and hold others accountable for their responsibilities. You are not afraid to speak out and share your opinion. You are a bossy girl, and even if you meet resistance, you are going to look it in the face and overcome it.