Why Girls Get Called Bossy, and How to Avoid It

The Huffington Post:

Many girls want to lead, only to be discouraged by criticism for taking the reins. By launching a campaign to ban the word “bossy,” Sheryl Sandberg is planting important seeds for many more women to become leaders. For these seeds to blossom, we need to understand the behaviors that lead people to brand girls as “bossy.”

As my daughters learned when we read the classic Little Miss Bossy book by Roger Hargreaves, girls get pegged as bossy when they order people around. Yet, we don’t label every girl who issues, commands and exercises authority as bossy. To make sense of bossiness, we need to tease apart two fundamental aspects of social hierarchy that are often lumped together: power and status. Power lies in holding a formal position of authority or controlling important resources. Status involves being respected or admired.

We react very differently when power is exercised by high-status and low-status people. In a pair of clever experiments, researchers Alison Fragale, Jennifer Overbeck and Maggie Neale show that when people with high status also possess power, we perceive them as dominant, but also warm. We hold them in high regard, so we’re willing to follow their commands. When the same commands come from people who lack status, we judge them as dominant and cold. Since they haven’t earned our respect, they don’t have the right to tell us what to do.

Read the whole story: The Huffington Post

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