What's Amplification? And How To Use It To Support Your Coworkers
Amplification is all about women helping women, and we're here for it.
Do men ever talk over you at work? Has a male supervisor ever dismissed your suggestion only to pretend it was his idea all along? It sucks.
Fortunately, though, there’s an effective and professional way to fight this kind of workplace sexism—it’s called amplification, and we have the women of Obama’s White House to thank for it.
When Barack Obama first took office back in 2008, two-thirds of his top aides were men. Female staffers reportedly complained about having to force their way into important meetings, and when they did get a seat at the table, these women often felt like they weren’t being heard.
But rather than giving up, or getting angry, the women of the White House did what any group of strong women would do—developed a strategy that would force male staffers to listen while simultaneously making it impossible for them to claim ideas that weren’t their own.
So how does amplification work, exactly?
It’s actually pretty simple. When a woman makes an important point or suggestion in a meeting, but that point is either ignored or immediately shot down, other women at the table repeat the first woman’s idea, giving clear support and credit to its source.
For example, you might say something like the following: "I'd like to go back to what Kristin said previously. This idea was strong because it provided a number of viable solutions that deal with our problem at the source level. I second her approach and can offer a few ways to help make it happen." Not only does this force male coworkers to listen to their female coworkers, it keeps them from taking credit for ideas that aren’t theirs.
Although amplification developed in the White House, this echoing technique could be a game changer for women working in any male-dominated field. Amplification could be used in same-sex work environments too, of course—but the technique was born out of a need to combat workplace sexism.
One things for sure, though: Amplification is a team effort. This technique only works if you and your female coworkers can commit to having each other’s backs, so being able to speak up in a room full of men is absolutely essential.
Since it can be difficult to find your voice, even in a room full of likeminded peers, you might want to do some homework on practicing assertiveness before you try out amplification IRL. Here’s an article to get you started.
We’re hoping you and your workplace sisters (not cis-ters) won’t need to utilize amplification in your next meeting, but if you find yourself being “manterrupted,” at least you’ll be prepared.
Good luck, and don't be afraid to be a little bit of a bitch (when it's called for, of course.)
Words: Elizabeth Enochs
Photos: Daria Kobayashi Ritch