The power of language: Why I #BanBossy and I’m #NotSorry


I’ve been called bossy most of my life. One incident in particular has always stayed with me. I was four and my kindergarten was being filmed for a children’s TV show; I saw an opportunity, jumped up on a block and began to pretend I was a policewoman directing the traffic. Afterwards my teacher went to my mother (who shared the story with me years later), thinking she should know that I was being a very bossy kid – demonstrated by my taking control over the traffic. In fact, my mother said that it made her very proud. I had seen an opportunity and made it my own and she saw it as more of a leadership quality than anything else.

There’s a similar story in Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In (highly recommended reading). Only when I read Lean In did it dawn on me that ‘bossy’ is a term used only for females and not for males (generally speaking – a authoritative trait or action that is deemed acceptable in men and not so much in women). To this day even some men in my working life have told me that I am quite bossy…but I turn it around and say thank you.

In 2014 the Ban Bossy campaign began and everything became clear. Language is so very powerful, often used as a tool for setting double standards between men and women and framing certain qualities in women in a negative light. This is something we as women can change today.

How many times have you said sorry today? I’m not talking about if you hurt someone; I’m talking about instances such as using it as a segue to offer your opinion: “sorry, do you have a minute?” Women will so often use that word where men would never even consider using it in the same context. I’m all for apologising when I’ve done something wrong but we need to stop apologising for just being us – for being women, being there and having an opinion.

So I say yes to #BanBossy and #NotSorry.

  • Reflect on how many times you think you say sorry in a day.
  • Get colleagues and friends to help you count how many times you say sorry a day – and to raise awareness about the project.
  • Take actions to raise your own awareness throughout the following day around how many times you say sorry.
  • Find out more from
  • Share this with your network to get them to share  #banbossy and #notsorry!



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