During former president Obama’s first term, the vast majority of his top aides and cabinet members were men. They easily exerted their influence in meetings, while top female aides found it hard to achieve the same stature, despite their stellar credentials and extensive political experience. Not only did these women struggle to get their voices heard in meetings, but they struggled to be included in them in the first place. That meant they were left out of policy decisions, strategic calculations, and other matters of national and global significance. As described by Juliet Eilperin in her September 2016 Washington Post article about the situation, “Women complained of having to elbow their way into important meetings. And when they got in their voices were sometimes ignored.”
These strong, intelligent women were not about to be deterred, though. They came together and adopted an imaginative strategy they called “amplification.” When a female aide made a point in a meeting, another woman repeated it, giving credit back to her. As reported by Eilperin, an anonymous Obama aide said, “We just started doing it and made a purpose of doing it. It was an everyday thing.” As the women continued amplifying each other, over time, Obama noticed and began calling on them. The women’s brilliant strategy raised their voices, visibility, and impact. They were no longer on the sidelines; they were at the center of everything.
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