Amplification

The clever strategy Obama’s women staffers came up with to make sure they were being heard

Barack Obama chatting with senior advisor Valerie Jarrett on their campaign plane, during the 2008 campaign (Photo by Charles Ommanney/Getty Images)

At the beginning of President Obama’s first term in 2009, about two-thirds of his top staffers were men, and women staffers often felt their voices were not being included or straight up ignored. “It’s not pleasant to have to appeal to a man to say, ‘Include me in that meeting,’” national security adviser Susan Rice told The Washington Post, explaining how women in the Obama administration sometimes had to force their way into important meetings. Eventually, to make sure their voices were being heard female staffers came up with a strategy called “amplification.” This method, as explained by the Post, worked like this: Once a woman in the room made a key point “other women would repeat it, giving credit to its author. This forced the men in the room to recognize the contribution — and denied them the chance to claim the idea as their own.”

Amplification eventually became a common practice, a former Obama aide said, and the president took note and started including more female and younger aides. Things have improved vastly for women in Obama’s second term: there is now an equal split of men and women among his top aides, and half of all White House departments are headed by women. “I think having a critical mass makes a difference,” senior adviser Valerie Jarrett said.  “It’s fair to say that there was a lot of testosterone flowing in those early days. Now we have a little more estrogen that provides a counterbalance.”

Read the full story at The Washington Post.

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