It’s all about banding together
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It should come as no surprise that the White House has never been the most welcoming place for female staffers. Even while Barack Obama represented change and progressive values when he ran for office in 2008, the male-dominated team behind his campaign filled his cabinet, making it difficult for existing female staffers to break in.
In an interview with the Washington Post, former White House communications director Anita Dunn echoed that point of exclusivity, saying, “If you didn’t come in from the campaign, it was a tough circle to break into. Given the makeup of the campaign, there were just more men than women.” Specifically, men represented two thirds of Obama’s top aides, the Post reports. Naturally, in this environment, women faced the uphill battle of first getting into the room for important meetings and then being heard once there.
So female staffers came up with a plan. They started using a strategy called “amplification,” which ensured that when one woman spoke, another would back her up to cement the point. By banding together and repeating each other’s contributions, female staffers pushed their male colleagues to hear them out while also preventing them from claiming their ideas.
As one anonymous former Obama aide told the Washington Post, “We just started doing it, and made a purpose of doing it. It was an everyday thing.” Apparently, Obama noticed their efforts and started bringing more women onto the team.
Should Hillary Clinton win the presidency this election season, the gender barrier could be dismantled for the first time in White House history. Among her senior staff, Clinton has actually chosen more women than men to head important projects. And if you’re not into politics, think of it as a science experiment. As a country, we’ve never experienced true gender equality within our government, so we don’t know what benefits we will gain by uplifting both halves of the population. Hopefully, by then, women won’t have to rely on clever strategies to ensure they’re being heard—they’ll simply be acknowledged for the quality of their contributions, not their inherited sex.