Caitlin's Browser History: The Website
Publish date:
September 15, 2016
office politics, Sexism At Work, Workplace Discrimination

Have you seen that article floating around about how Obama's female staffers made sure they were heard during meetings? Basically, to ensure their points were made, they banded together, and each time one of them made a cogent point, the others would "amplify" the message by crediting the woman who thought it up and repeating it.

One of my male friends commented on the article when I shared it, saying it was "a great way to ruin a conversation," but I'm pretty sure he was thinking of that Fight Club scene where Edward Norton is shouted down by a bunch of chanting Project Mayhem members, rather than the realities of being a woman in a mixed-gender space.

In mixed-gender groups, like your average meeting in the White House or any other slightly less high-pressure office, women speak less than their proportional makeup of a given group — so even if a meeting is a 50/50 split of men and women, men will be speaking most of the time. It's becoming obvious that it's not enough to have women "at the table," since they also have to feel comfortable speaking there.

I don't think anything in the above paragraph comes as a surprise to most women, just like I don't think there are women out there whose great ideas have been repeated — sometimes mere seconds after the fact! — by male peers to a much more favorable reception.

I can distinctly remember having my own campaign idea parroted back to me by a male coworker to a suddenly, magically, suspiciously more responsive roomful of people. Is it any wonder, then, that women have had to come up with strategies to get themselves heard?

One of my favorite tools to use when I suspect this is happening is It's pretty simple: two buttons that keep track when "a dude" and "not a dude" are talking, plus a percentage breakdown. (The project is also open-source, so if you're a little more tech-savvy than I am, you could use it for measuring other types of diversity.)

Developer Cathy Deng has this to say about the site:

When people talk about diversity & inclusion in tech, they often count bodies - what % of women at this company, what % women at an event, etc. But...inclusion is more than who's in the room. Often, in rooms that seem diverse, men still dominate conversations to a large extent.

To the same guy who said the female staffers were ruining the conversation, using probably feels like some sort of humorless feminist tic or needless number crunching but, as Deng says:

I'm exploiting the mantra of 'what gets measured gets managed'–hopefully, measuring participation can highlight disproportionality & ultimately make room for more voices.