Most women are accustomed to having men attempt to talk over them or dominate a conversation, an action that many have labeled with the term ‘mansplaining’. However, women at the White House have come up with an interesting method for getting past the misogyny of their male brethren.
The Washington Post recently released an article that pointed to the overt sexual discrimination that occurred regularly in the staff of the White House, namely Obama’s personnel. Women were often forced to elbow their way into meetings in order to hear what was going on, and many of them were ignored once they finally made it into meetings. The problem was especially bothersome during the first term of President Obama, thanks to the predominance of men in the staff.
An estimated two thirds of the top White House aides during Obama’s first term were men, which created little opportunity for women to be heard and respected for their opinions. In order to get past this hurdle, the women of the White House created a fascinatingly effective method of getting their voices heard. They called the method ‘amplification’.
The amplification method is quite simple, and it requires nothing but cooperation and a willingness to be assertive. The method involves the women working together to get past the individual voices of the men. For instance, when a women would say something rather poignant or make a great point, the other women in the meeting would repeat the idea and offer support to the first woman who came up with the idea or point. This method forced the men who were present to acknowledge the idea as a group, which prevented any sneaky men from attempting to claim they had come up with the idea themselves.
It is fairly obvious that being close to the president during closed door meetings is an ideal way to further one’s own political influence and power. Women needed to have a way of controlling their own contributions without having them hijacked by overzealous men, and the method has worked beautifully. Even the president noted the effectiveness of the tactic. It started slowly, and soon all the women were working together to keep each other afloat in the cutthroat world of politics. Soon, Obama started requesting opinions from women in his staff much more frequently.
Of course, the strategy is only viable if there are multiple women in the same room during a meeting, and if they all agree to work together. Having a few women is enough to make the method effective, but the closer the gender ratio is to 1:1, the more likely the method is to be effective.
Unfortunately, this problem isn’t limited to the White House. It has been estimated that men take up about 75 percent of the speaking time during high-level professional meetings. Men are also far more likely to create interruptions when a woman is talking in order to assert dominance.
This new amplification method is the perfect response to such a patriarchal society, but it does require many women working together. The method is seen as the newest push by women at the top of their fields to break through the so-called glass ceiling that separates them from true power and respect. Since the United States has managed to go more than 200 years without electing a female president, it makes sense that women still have some barriers to shatter.
If Hillary Clinton wins the presidential election in November, it is not only going to be a victory for her, but for women everywhere. It will also give her an opportunity to install a female chief of staff, which would be another first for the United States.