October 25, 2016; Washington Post
Historically, issues affecting women, and in particular the topic of women in the workforce, have made infrequent appearances on national platforms during election cycles. But as we all have come to find out, this year’s presidential election is unlike any we have ever seen before, covering a wide-range of topics—some of which we would have been better off not hearing anything about. However, one important area of conversation that has come to light in recent months, thanks in large part to the uncomfortable dynamic between Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, is the subject of how women are treated in the workplace.
Scenarios that women have long experienced at work, including being consciously and unconsciously interrupted by male colleagues during meetings, or having men—who may or may not know more or be more experienced—assume their female coworkers need them to provide an explanation on a particular topic (occurrences so common both have been universally labeled as “manterrupting” and “mansplaining,” respectively) have played out repeatedly on the presidential debate stage for all to see. And while it’s unfortunate to see such behavior unfold in a setting that should be regarded with the utmost dignity and respect, the showcasing of this sort of “men at work” type aggressiveness is far too familiar for many women, so familiar in fact that female professionals in Washington and beyond are adopting coping mechanisms to ensure their voices are heard loud and clear.
In September, as part of its “Women in Power” series, the Washington Post published a piece describing the concept of “amplification”—a method that female staffers in the White House during President Obama’s administration have implemented in order to “hammer across each others points during meetings.” Born out of a realization that significant remarks made by females were not being seriously considered (if even heard at all), the strategy of “amplification” entails women amplifying the ideas other women suggest by repeating the idea and giving credit where credit is due—the female originator.
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Since the article’s publication, women across all sectors have come forward to exchange stories of enduring testosterone-induced biases in the office as well as their own application of the “amplification” tactic in an effort to make their point, again and again and again.
“Amplification” and other similar techniques, such as “boast bitching,” which involves women publicly lauding each other’s contributions and unites women around the common goal of getting their voices heard and their ideas on the table, intend to disrupt work environments that many women believe are deeply rooted in cultures of male dominance. While traditionally, men are revered for their assertiveness and confidence in the workplace, society has been slow to view women not as bossy, but rather as leaders, and not as self-promoting and vain, but rather as competent professionals who have experience and performance to justify ownership of their career success.
What is especially refreshing about these female-driven strategies is that they help dispel the myth that there is some sort of advantage in women sabotaging the career paths of other women in the workplace. Instead “amplification” and yes even “boast bitching” bond women—of all professions and power rankings—together on a uniform front to advocate that their presence in the workplace is clearly seen and heard.—Lindsay Walker