In her book “Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead,” a response to her 2010 TEDTalk about the ways women hold themselves back, author Sheryl Sandberg set out to make a change with stories of how women had been treated on the job.
Now, she is focusing on girls with her new “Ban Bossy” campaign, which aims at empowering young women to take back such slurs as “bossy,” “pushy,” and “stubborn” that are used mostly against females. She’s teamed up with pop idols like Beyonce and Jane Lynch of Glee, as well as the long-established bastion of girl power, the Girl Scouts of the USA. The Girl Scouts are a great partner for Sandberg – they have a reputation of being more forward-thinking than their Boy Scout counterparts on issues of gender equality and technological fields.
Until I researched her book, I had no idea who Sandberg was, let alone could I recognize her face. No current Girl Scouts are featured in the initial Ban Bossy video, and if the adults and young girls in the second video were current or former Scouts, there is no mention of it. In the fine print of GSUSA’s #BanBossy page, it states that, because they don’t own the license to Lean In, they “may not create programs or products using the marks of LeanIn.org… GSUSA is working with LeanIn.org to develop programmatic materials that will be distributed to Councils and troops at no cost… [and] collaborating on products that Councils/troops will able to purchase.”
It sounds like the Girl Scouts don’t see any of the revenue of those “#BanBossy” T-shirts. The accomplishments of other video guests such as previous United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Girl Scouts CEO Anna Maria Chávez are good goals for girls to emulate, but their stories may be hard to grasp for their young audience. If the video was all a girl saw of the campaign, it seems unlikely to leave a mark.
As much as Sandberg may have helped adults with her campaign, she is missing the real issues with young girls. Girl-on-girl bullying is the bane of many middle schoolers’ existences, something Ban Bossy doesn’t address. Pointing out the language of the girls that made fun of me in middle school did absolutely nothing to deter them.
But the partnership with Girls Scouts is a good one.
No one made fun of me when I was out in the dirt canoeing, hiking and doing archery at my local Girl Scout Day Camp, Friendship Fields.
I still volunteer there every summer because I see the impact it makes on girls of all ages and social positions. The girls have an amazing ability to self-regulate without calling each other names.
Although, I do step in to break up some disagreements, most girls laugh and play together without any interruption besides lunch. The all-girls enclave of summer camps and troop meetings give girls the opportunity to hash out problems and learn to work together without the helpful, but sometimes helicoptering, eyes of their parents and society.
Their Juliet program, for girls that want to participate in Girls Scouts but don’t have enough members for a group, allows every girl access to the Scouts. Their most famous enterprise, the annual cookie sales, teach girls everything from math to marketing. Many girls use the money they raise as credit toward attending more camps, continuing a clear rewards cycle.
On top of her Ban Bossy campaign, Sandberg has another partnership with Getty Images, a prominent stock image dealer, to produce more equal representations of genders in their stock photography, like men changing diapers and women as soldiers.
It’s a great idea, and I wish I would have thought of it. But the girls they are targeting with their Ban Bossy campaign don’t typically use stock photography. While they may be more likely to use the hashtag “#BanBossy” on Twitter than adults, do the girls really see any action with the Lean In organization with their current actions?
GSUSA is miles ahead of Sandberg in helping girls work together. Camps and troops have a real, solid impact on the way a girl grows up. The ideology of Ban Bossy needs to meet the grittiness of real work in groups of girls. Until we can have meaningful engagement with girls as a united front, we are just adults talking over their heads.