Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg recently released a campaign urging us all to “Ban Bossy,” luring in the likes of Beyonce and Jane Lynch to help spread the message. Ana Navarro, a political contributor at CNN and Republican strategist, had a different kind of message for attendees of The Ad Club’s annual Women’s Leadership Forum Wednesday, however: “Be bossy. Be very Goddamn bossy.”
Call Navarro “bosslady”; she said she’ll take it. Why? Because it starts with “boss” — the exact position she wants to be in.
Navarro grew up living a “charmed life” in Nicaragua, until a civil war broke out in the early ’80s and she was forced to immigrate to Miami, Fla.
She started attending the Carrollton School of the Sacred Heart, an all-girls institution that led her to believe “girls rule.” Not until graduating from the University of Miami did she realize there was this gender gap people were talking about.
“The only boundaries are the ones you set for yourself,” Navarro explained, speaking candidly to a packed room at the Westin on Boston’s waterfront. Navarro actually started her keynote by apologizing in advance to all the people she was about to offend — particularly the men.
“The reason we are bossy is because men need instruction,” she said, garnering laughs from the crowd. “Men never tell each other to ‘Lean In’; to ban the word ‘bossy’; to dress for success; to lose weight.”
It’s for that reason Navarro has one rule among her group of friends: “We don’t judge each other. … We don’t tear each other down.”
Success means something different to every woman. It could mean being the COO of a social media giant. Or, it could mean being a stay-at-home mom. What’s most important is that everyone figures out what their own definition of success is, and to Navarro, “Success is what brings you fulfillment and happiness.”
Navarro, who was formerly Sen. John McCain’s national Hispanic co-chair, felt like a breath of fresh air, bluntly saying what the women attending needed to hear. When asked if she’s ever been discriminated against, Navarro acknowledged that she probably had, given she’s a Hispanic, immigrant and female. She couldn’t say when she was last shown prejudice, however.
“I won’t allow anyone to turn me into a victim of discrimination,” she stressed, later adding, “I’m not going to let anyone define things for me, let alone define me.”
In Navarro’s world, life never sounds like it’s black and white — a trait today’s generation seems to crave. Navarro spent a semester at Harvard’s Institute of Politics. Upon leaving, what she realized is that the 20-somethings want a path. Because of that, Navarro couldn’t give the advice students were likely looking to hear.
“I don’t think I knew 10 years ago what I want to do today,” Navarro admitted. “I don’t think today I know what I want to do tomorrow.”
She does, however, know that she will keep doing “the woman thing,” as well as playing with the big boys, because they aren’t mutually exclusive things.
“Women have got to get more comfortable saying, ‘I am woman, hear me roar,'” Navarro urged, touching upon a point she made when first taking the stage. “Do not be afraid to speak up, because if you don’t, someone else will do it for you.”
As women nodded in agreement around the room, Navarro dropped one little, albeit critical, one-liner.
“Be like a tennis shoe,” she said. “Just do it.”
Image via The Raw Story