‘President Obama is the first sitting president to call himself a feminist. His administration is the most diverse in history because he’s made an effort to fill the majority of top policy appointments in his executive branch with women and people of color.
But a fascinating anecdote, reported by Juliet Eilperin in the Washington Post on Tuesday, reminds us that even self-identified feminists like Obama can still harbor unconscious gender biases:
When President Obama took office, two-thirds of his top aides were men. Women complained of having to elbow their way into important meetings. And when they got in, their voices were sometimes ignored.
So female staffers adopted a meeting strategy they called “amplification”: When a woman made a key point, other women would repeat it, giving credit to its author. This forced the men in the room to recognize the contribution — and denied them the chance to claim the idea as their own.
“We just started doing it, and made a purpose of doing it. It was an everyday thing,” said one former Obama aide who requested anonymity to speak frankly. Obama noticed, she and others said, and began calling more often on women and junior aides.
The “amplification” strategy seems to have paid off: During Obama’s second term, Eilperin notes, women finally gained parity with men in Obama’s inner circle.
For most women in the workplace, this phenomenon is exhaustingly familiar: A woman offers an idea in a meeting, but nobody notices or acknowledges it until a man later says the same thing.And it’s not in our heads. Decades of research show that women get interrupted more often — by both men and women — and that women are given less credit, or even penalized, for speaking out more…’