Girl Scouts aim to end use of the term “bossy”

08/13/2014 12:00 AM

08/13/2014 5:04 PM

When girls are called bossy, 70 percent of the time it’s by a female classmate or peer. And of the girls who have been called bossy, 45 percent say they no longer wanted to lead after hearing it.

The Girl Scouts are aiming to change that. Along with their operations as usual, the Girl Scouts have partnered with LeanIn.org to launch Ban Bossy, a public-service campaign to encourage leadership in girls.

Alicia Allen, communications and public relations specialist with Girl Scouts Heart of Central California, and Vera Oropeza, the assistant vice president of volunteer management at the Sacramento Regional Program Center, spoke with me about their campaign to continue to advocate for girls and promote leadership through community involvement.

The Ban Bossy campaign is about raising awareness around the descriptive word (“bossy”) used disproportionately to demean girls and women. “We believe girls who exhibit assertiveness should be seen as acting like leaders, not acting bossy,” Allen said. “As parents, educators and friends, we can make small changes that have a big impact on girls’ ambitions. Girl Scouts is encouraging troop leaders to use Ban Bossy’s ‘Leadership Tips for Troop Leaders,’ which includes tips, facts and activities to help girls flex their leadership skills and resolve personal conflicts.”

To complement the launch of Ban Bossy, the Girl Scout Research Institute launched a national poll to understand the current leadership landscape of girls and boys, as well as the meaning and potential repercussions of being called bossy. Girl Scouts are more likely to consider themselves leaders compared to non-Girl Scouts and boys: 64 percent of Girl Scouts consider themselves leaders compared to 44 percent of non-Girl Scouts and 52 percent of boys.

As an organization, Girl Scouts prides itself on having many girl-led leadership opportunities. They include the Girl Advisory Board, GLOW (Girls Leading Our Way) Conference, End of Year Celebration, Board of Directors Representation and an internship for older girls. This internship opportunity, called MarComm, is for 16 girls to participate in marketing and communications. The interns write and publish a magazine that sixth-grade Girl Scouts receive in the mail and work as public relations representatives to the media.

The nationally recognized Girl Scout Gold Award is the highest award in Girl Scouts. To earn the Gold Award, girls are challenged with choosing a community issue and addressing the root cause with a sustainable solution. Girls choose issues they are passionate about and spend a minimum of 80 hours to plan and accomplish their projects. This year, 52 Girl Scouts from the Sacramento-Stockton-Modesto region will be receiving their Gold Awards, including six girls from the Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties: Rachel Aldax, Christiana DeVito, Kathia Hernandez, Alexandra Knapp, Jennifer Mello and Julie Kanemura. These girls are recognized at a Recognitions of Excellence event for Girl Scouts who earned their silver and gold awards.

Kathia, who graduated from high school in May, is now a committee member for Girl Scout Troop 3810 in Riverbank and will continue to volunteer with the organization. “I used to be the type of person that let others take control, and now with the Girl Scout Gold Award, I see myself as a leader and not a follower,” she said. “Girl Scouts not only opened many doors for my future, but it turned me into an entirely different person.”

Oropeza said there is a need for more volunteers and troop leaders so more local girls can experience the benefits of Girl Scouts. Anyone interested in volunteering can visit girlscoutshcc.org/join for more information. Unsure of what you would lead about? “Ban Bossy would be an easy first program and activity for troop leaders to introduce to their new troops.”

For more information on how to join, donate or volunteer with Girl Scouts Heart of Central California, visit www.girlscoutshcc.org.

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