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‘Bossy’ Women: 16 Leaders Who’ve Overcome That Label (and Worse)

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Updated: March 10, 2014

A year after the publication of Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg is back with another initiative to promote female leadership. This time, the Facebook exec takes aim at the language we use to describe women and girls who take charge. Her “Ban Bossy” campaign hopes to change a culture in which men are bosses, but women are “bossy.” Along with her co-sponsors, former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and Girl Scouts CEO Ana Maria Chávez, Sandberg is asking people to stop referring to women as “bossy,” especially when they’re talking to little girls because of its negative connotations.

“When I was in junior high and running for class vice president,” Sandberg explains in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, “one of my teachers pulled my best friend aside to warn her not to follow my example: ‘Nobody likes a bossy girl,’ the teacher warned.” The Facebook exec and billionaire is of course not the only powerful woman to rise above that label. Here are 16 incredibly successful women, from Margaret Thatcher to Marissa Mayer, all of whom were called “bossy” at one point or another, and some of them have been called much worse (poor Angela Merkel).

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Write to Charlotte Alter at charlotte.alter@time.com