In the early days of the Obama White House, nearly two-thirds of Obama’s senior staffers and advisors were men. The Washington Post reports that the “women complained of having to elbow their way into important meetings. And when they got in, their voices were sometimes ignored.”
So, the women of the Obama White House banded together and sketched out a strategy that would effectively force their male colleagues to listen to them. They called it “amplification,” a simple but brilliant approach that women across the workplace should adopt. According to the Post, when one woman made a point, the other women in the room would reiterate the idea and credit the initial speaker. It not only made the men in the room hear what their female colleagues were saying but prevented them from taking credit for their ideas.
“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 simple act of repetition and credit, it seems, managed to address a kind of workplace sexism that isn’t necessarily intentional, but is familiar to nearly every woman who has ever sat in a meeting. And the results were incredibly effective. Not only did the President engage with more of his female staff but the gender disparity in the White House closed. Now, half of Obama’s senior staff are women and, since women’s voices are being heard, there has been a drastic change in maternity leave policies. The West Wing now has pumping rooms for nursing mothers and an impressive 12-week paid leave policy. So, let’s take a page from the women of the Obama White House and “amplify.”