Speaking Up Isn’t Enough: How to Change Systems of Power

Nilofer Merchant
Mar 19, 2019 · 2 min read

A man walked up to me after I had given this talk. He had bought my book and wanted me to sign it.

How Power Powers Ideas — TEDxUniversityofNevada

For him, I asked? No. Not him, his wife.

Who, he shares, happens to be part of the executive suite of a major company in Reno. He described her and her many successes, but also added the different challenges she had faced. How she was directed to be more “ambitious” by her manager, but then condemned for that same “lack of humility” in the next review*. How she was told that she was holding herself back, despite not being advanced*. Her boss had actually suggested the problem was that she speak up more, but he knew from the stories she shared with them that she WAS speaking up because her ideas were often then repeated and accepted attributed to other people*

This man described his wife, as a “tough one”, never ever letting it get to her. But he could see had been bashing herself for the last 10 plus years thinking the problem was her.

Later in the day, I actually met the executive.

She loved the talk, she said, because it showed her it’s not all on her; because we live in a system of power that shapes things, too. She cried with relief.

*Each thing his wife faced are well known Lean-In type messages women receive. While the book has sold millions of copies, most of the advice is not backed by evidence. Quite to the contrary. If you follow the advice of Lean In, you will hit a hard brick wall. And far too many women don’t know it. They think it’s them. If you’re curious about the specifics, I’ll point you to this great research paper, entitled Lean In Versus the Literature, from the Academy of Management.

Learn more: http://nilofermerchant.com/speaking/

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