Note: This is Part 2 of our series on “Meeting Shenanigans” — challenges that women and underrepresented minorities can face in meetings at tech companies, and things allies can do to mitigate them. If you missed Part 1, check it out here.
Talk to a woman working in tech, and she’ll tell you about a time (or two or ten) that she experienced “idea hijacking.” Here’s what it looks like: She says something insightful or even downright awesome in a meeting only to have it dismissed or fall on deaf ears. Then someone (often a guy) says the same thing later in the meeting, and it’s well received. Maybe even heralded. And while that person gets the kudos, the woman who originally said it starts fuming inside.
Her frustration is understandable.
And we allies can borrow a page from a group of women who figured out how to stop idea hijacking in its tracks.
During President Obama’s staff meetings, women adopted a strategy they called “amplification.” When one of the female staffers made a key point, other women would repeat it, giving credit to its author. This approach forced others in the room to recognize the contribution — and denied them the chance to claim the idea as their own.
There’s no reason that only women can amplify the voices of other women. Male allies can do it, too. And I’m trying to do so in meetings I attend.
Yet, there are times that I’m not quite on the ball, and I miss the opportunity to amplify a woman’s idea. And if it gets repeated later in the meeting by someone else, I step up. I remind everyone who originated it. I say something like, “Great idea… thanks to Jen for surfacing it earlier.”
And that’s not all. I strive to give a woman credit for saying the same brilliant idea IN A PREVIOUS MEETING. Here’s what it might look like.
After someone brings up a good idea I’ve heard before, I’ll say something along these lines: “I like that idea a lot. In fact, when Ana brought that up last week in our 1-on-1, I learned the following…”
Not only do I want to amplify Ana’s idea, I also hope to show her respect and help her build credibility by saying that I learned from her.
Allies, let’s use our position of privilege to stop idea hijacking in its tracks. Let’s amplify and showcase the ideas coming from women and underrepresented minorities all around us. Let’s make this happen.
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