When my husband and I found out that we were pregnant with our first child, we were of course thrilled! Starting our own family was very important to us and we couldn’t wait to find out whether it was a boy or a girl. A few months later we got the word – we would be having a baby girl. I was beyond excited and immediately started shopping for cute baby girl dresses, bows, socks (with plenty of Texas Tech gear, of course) and started planning the color scheme and décor for her nursery. She was going to be the sweet, perfectly styled baby girl I always wanted.
Then it hit me – I’m having a girl. I pondered about what she’d be like – would she be the shy girl like me or would she inherit my husband’s strong personality? I also thought about all the things that go along with raising a girl – from teaching her how to fix her hair, helping her deal with friendships, how to cope with boyfriends and having the serious “talks” about her body. It was all very overwhelming to think about, but I knew that my husband and I would be up to the task.
Nine years later, it turns out that my beautiful Madeline most certainly got her father’s personality and height! She is mentally and physically strong, intelligent and inquisitive and has all of the qualities and the confidence of a good leader. (Case in point, she refused to get in the back of the tug of war line with the rest of the girls, insisting on being at the very front with all of the boys in the class!) Of course she has squabbles with her little girl friends from time to time, which has resulted in hurt feelings and some tears. But Madeline is not the type of person to dwell on things for too long, and is very quick to bounce back from anything that gets her down. I’d like to give my husband and I a “high-five” for all of this, but the truth is that I believe that 50% of her personality, and the personalities of all young girls, come with them on the day they were born.
The other half, well, that’s on us as parents and the rest of you out in the world. What can we as parents and the “global village” do to help our young girls grow into strong and capable members of society? What’s more, what can we all do to help them become the leaders of tomorrow?
When I heard about the #BanBossy campaign, I was immediately intrigued. Ban Bossy is a public service campaign designed to help girls flex their leadership muscles while having fun do it. It was developed in partnership with the Girls Scout of the USA, Rachel Simmons (co-founder of the Girls Leadership Institute) and LeanIn.org. According to their website,
“When it comes to girls and ambition, the pattern is clear: girls are discouraged from leading. When a little boy asserts himself, he’s called a “leader.” Yet when a little girl does the same, she risks being branded “bossy”—a precursor to words like “aggressive,” “angry,” and “too ambitious” that plague strong female leaders. Calling girls bossy is one of many things we do to discourage them from leading. It’s no wonder that by middle school, girls are less interested in leadership roles than boys, a trend that continues into adulthood.”
The campaign provides leadership tips for girls, teachers, parents and Girl Scout leaders, to encourage confidence and leadership for young women. I thought this would be a wonderful lesson for Madeline’s Girl Scout troop. My two female co-workers (who also used to be in Girl Scouts) graciously offered to co-lead the meeting with me and talk to the girls about what it means to be a leader and how important it is to speak up and stand up for yourself and your friends.
The meeting was a hit! We divided the girls into groups and had each of them act out different skits that allowed them to showcase different scenarios on being a leader and being a good friend. We talked to the girls about what it means to be “bossy” and that it is ok to be “the boss.” The girls loved hearing us talk to them about being the very best they can be and the importance of being confident young ladies.
One of the girls told us that sometimes people call her a “know it all” but that she really didn’t care. Awesome. That same girl told us later in the meeting that she wants to be President of the United States, and I’ve just learned from her mother that she has instituted a family newsletter with deadlines, assigned columns, etc. Even more awesome. Watch out world, this girl is going places!
As for Madeline, I know she is going places, too. My husband and I will continue to do our part to nurture her confidence, but I ask that the rest of you help us in the process. Please encourage Madeline and all young girls to dream big. A woman’s place is anywhere she wants it to be.
I encourage you to check out Ban Bossy and the below campaigns designed to encourage and inspire young women: