By April M. Short / AlterNet

It’s a subtle form of sexism, and it happens all the time: A group of men and women are meeting and the men end up dominating the conversation (often without realizing they’re doing it). The men get loud, they repeat themselves, they run off on tangents, basking in the sounds of their own voices. They often end up trampling over women who interject, and changing the topic on women who raise a point. If and when a woman gets a solid moment to voice her idea, more often than not, the men in the group will pass it over. Or they’ll weave the conversation in such a way that, in the end, a man ends up taking credit for the woman’s idea.

This is such a common phenomenon that the women of the Obama administration pinpointed it, met to address it and came up with an ingenious way to make themselves heard in meetings. They called it amplification, according to Juliet Eilperin’s recent article published in the Washington Post on September 13.

Amplification, Eilperin explains, goes like this: “When a woman 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.”

As Eilperin notes, the White House has a glass ceiling that has yet to be cracked in more than 200 years, as men have “had a lock on the Oval Office.” The boss, Mr. President, has been more difficult for women to access for “women from both parties,” and “Women often struggle just to get a foot in the door. Presidents typically select their most senior advisers from the male-dominated ranks of their campaigns. As late as the Eisenhower administration, the only women working in the West Wing were secretaries — and they were barred from dining with men in the White House mess,” Eilperin explains.

Apparently, amplification works. A former Obama aide, who spoke anonymously with Eilperin, said President Obama noticed the trend, and began calling on women more often. Over the course of Obama’s presidency, the gender disparity has decreased. Women now head half of all White House departments and maternity leave policies have improved.

In a Jezebel article Stassa Edwards recently pointed out, “the West Wing now has pumping rooms for nursing mothers and an impressive 12-week paid leave policy. So, let’s take a page from the women of the Obama White House and ‘amplify.’”

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