Does this sound familiar: you are sitting in a meeting and offer up an idea or a solution that pertains to the topic. It is a well thought out idea and you believe strongly in its merits. However, it appears to go unnoticed until someone else, often a man, brings up the same idea and the room goes wild with his brilliance.
You want to stand up and say “Hold your horse – that was MY idea. I just said it five minutes ago. Didn’t anyone hear me? Can you hear me now?”
But you don’t, because, well, what would it accomplish. You are just glad the idea has been heard and will be acted on; afterall, it is all about what benefits the company, right? It doesn’t really matter that you didn’t get credit.
I know. I have been there, as have many women before you and many women after. Why is that? Imagine how these women felt:
Rosalind Franklin, discovery of the DNA double helix: Watson and Crick’s famed article in Nature on the discovery of the DNA double-helix structure, which would win them a Nobel Prize, buries a mention of Rosalind Franklin’s role in the footnotes.
Elizabeth Magie, Monopoly: Charles Darrow, an unemployed heating salesman, traditionally gets credit for America’s favorite homage to extortionist landlords. Butas PBS discovered in 2004, the board game actually had its start nearly three decades earlier when Magie, an acolyte of the economist Henry George, secured to the patent to The Landlord’s Game. For her efforts in creating the country’s most popular board game she received just $500 from Parker Brothers.
Martha Coston, signal flares: Coston was officially listed as “administratix” on the 1961 patent that revolutionized communication between US Navy vessels. Official credit for the invention went to her husband, Benjamin Franklin Coston—never mind that he had been dead for the 10 years she had worked with pyrotechnic engineers to turn his idea into a reality.
Those are just three stories of women throughout history who have had the credit for their inventions, ideas and knowledge taken away by men. This information comes from the article Ladies Last: 8 Inventions By Women that Dudes Took Credit For. The article is worth the read, but make sure you take time to scroll through the comments for more stories and debate. In some cases, it is interesting that men are still trying to justify the reasons why some women were left off the credit list.
Why is that?
When this experience happened to you, what did you do? More importantly, what did you learn and what advice would you have for other women who experience the same slight?
I read a number of articles that addressed the situation when women have credit stolen by co-workers and their boss and it talks about feelings and fear and the more feminine approach to business.
I was curious what a man’s advice would be to another man. Is there something we can learn?
Here is an overview of the tips:
Send status reports frequently
When it comes to increasing your visibility, the name of the game is repetition. Your manager is busy thinking about a million priorities, and you’re just one of them. In order to get a piece of his mind share, you need to occupy it more often.
Get favorable testimonials
Nothing reminds people of how brilliant your last idea was than a third-party testimonial from a customer or colleague who brags on your behalf. A testimonial will not only redirect the spotlight back onto you, it will also endorse the fact that you must be a pretty smart guy for making that person so happy.
Ask for similar successful projects
Your manager isn’t going to remember every last thing you’ve ever done; he’s going to go back to that highlight reel of your sweetest victories. So if you’re going to build a highlight reel, you better make sure you’re loaded up on big victories.
Load up on projects around review time
Your manager is so preoccupied with important things like getting his own raise that he’s too busy to remember everything you’ve ever done.
The time to really work on getting your due credit is right before review time. That’s the time to load up on every visible project you can get your hands on. Don’t worry, you can go back to playing on your PSP in your cubicle after your review, but right now you need to be completely overworked.
Stay visibly busy
It’s not enough to just take on projects, you need to go a step further and actually look busy. When writing your review, your manager is going to grab the most vivid memories he has of your performance, which will of course be the most recent memories.
You want these memories to be filled with you coming in early, leaving late and looking stressed and busy as hell. This is the time to eat at your desk, cover your office with papers and constantly remind people how overloaded you are. Looking busy is just as important as being busy.
There are some really good ideas but no where in an article by a women, for women did I read ANYTHING about the “appearance” of being busy and stressed to impress. Or to time your over achievement to just before review time specifically to get a good review.
I would agree that we need to be visible. So often we are just concentrating on the work and the importance/value what we do brings the company. When we are complimented, we brush it off or just give global credit to the team rather than accepting the fact that you were a leader and deserve to be recognized.
Perhaps we need to stop being a woman and approach our career involvement more like a man. Not the part where they play on their PSP in their cube – but the fact that they stand up for their ideas and work success. Men not only seek out testimonials, they share them with their boss and colleagues.
I once heard a woman describe the difference between men and women this way:
A woman will learn something new, study it, practice it for years before telling anyone that she has this new knowledge.
A man will learn a thimble full of knowledge more than the rest of the room and not only call himself an expert, but will set up a business based on that small amount of knowledge and expect to make a million.
There is much we can learn from the approach men have in business, but at the end of the day, we are women and there truly is a difference between the Mars and Venus approach to communication. So here are a few tips in an article that appeared on the GoodWill website entitled Speak Up! Five Tips to Make Yourself Heard in Meetings, by Jenni B. Baker
Sit near the center of the table. It’s easier to be left out of the conversations if you’re sitting at the end of the table.
Jump into the conversation – tactfully. Interrupting is an art. You’ll seem less rude if you first restate (“If I hear you correctly, you’re saying X”) or react (“I like Tom’s suggestion and would also recommend we do X”) to what others have said first.
Speak confidently. The more you sound like you believe in your ideas, the more others are likely to listen.
Watch your body language. Observe the body language of your other colleagues in the room – particularly the ones who speak up frequently and hold others’ attention. Don’t let yourself be interrupted. When you finally have everybody’s hard-won attention, hold the floor until you’re done articulating your comments. If others try to interrupt you, it’s fine to politely say something like “please allow me to finish my thought.”