Is it time to ban bossy?

Evan Rodd, PayScale

Are women called Bossy more often than men? If so, what impact does that have on the overall picture of gender equality in leadership positions? The gender wage gap and women’s roles in leadership are popular, and sadly sometimes polarizing topics of conversation. Recently there has been a lot of buzz regarding Sheryl Sandberg’s Ban Bossy campaign, which is “a public service campaign to encourage leadership and achievement in girls.”

The core messaging behind Ban Bossy asks us to take another look at gender bias in the work place. The campaign states that terms like “bossy” or “aggressive” are often used to describe women (especially women in leadership roles), while men are more often referred to as “decisive” and “strong-willed.“ The Ban Bossy website features several other examples and solutions for workplace gender bias, but there seems to be a lot of focus on whether or not we should make a conscious effort to re-evaluate or replace certain adjectives at work. The campaign has received accolades from celebrities like Beyonce, but other have stated that too much of a focus on language can detract from the bigger pictures, and sometimes miss the true issue all together.

There are laws in place regarding gender discrimination, but unfortunately, it still happens. This can be a concern for HR and business leaders alike, not only because of the potential legal repercussions, but for the impact on a company’s bottom line. While there are still conflicting opinions regarding words like “bossy,” many companies want to develop strong leaders, and create an environment where this is a possibility.

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We Know Next devoted one of their popular #NextChat Twitter Charts to the topic, and the responses from participants showcased an array of opinions, and possible solutions to workplace gender bias. We Know Next has provided a recap on their blog, in case you want to read what everyone was tweeting about.

Regardless of your stance on the Ban Bossy campaign, here are some helpful tips to help encourage strong employee development and talent retention:

Engage and empower employees

Whether it’s wellness programs, bonuses and incentives, or wage transparency, an empowered workforce is more invested in your company’s mission. Not only that, but employees who feel empowered and invested want others to feel the same. This can help break down communication issues across departments, and have a positive impact on employee motivation. Make sure you are taking the steps to fairly and accurately evaluate employee performance.  In addition, invite employees to provide feedback and take their concerns into consideration.  According to research, happier employees are 12% more productive .

Embrace change

The workforce is constantly developing, and a successful leader knows how to negotiate the winds of change. New technology and new scientific advancements are generally seen in a positive light, so why not apply the same attitude to your workplace? Ignoring new ideas and perspectives will only discourage development.

Audit your compensation strategy

There are still a number of studies that report gender bias when it comes to compensation. Regardless of gender, it’s usually in a company’s best interest to retain and develop high-performing employees. Arming yourself with the tools to create a fair and competitive compensation strategy will show your employees that you care, as well as allowing less room bias (gender or otherwise) to interfere with pay. Make sure employees receive full credit for their contributions, and use data to determine your pay structure, not your gut.

Feel free to share your opinions on the Ban Bossy campaign. What are other methods a company can use to combat gender bias in the workplace?


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Kapil Kapoor

I would like to join up coming seducational webinar on payscale and compensation best pactices