A few months back, the Washington Post ran a story explaining how women in the Obama administration implemented an amplification strategy to raise the visibility of all of the female staffers. Shine Theory, as the concept has been dubbed, was coined by podcasters ann friedman and Aminatou Sow on their popular Call Your Girlfriend podcast.
Ann explained how she broke the cycle of jealously and competition with other successful women in a New York Magazine article back in 2013,
“When you meet a woman who is intimidatingly witty, stylish, beautiful, and professionally accomplished, befriend her. Surrounding yourself with the best people doesn’t make you look worse by comparison. It makes you better…I don’t shine if you don’t shine.”
Want to practice Shine Theory at your office? Here are 3 examples of how female executives can lead shiny:
- Repeat Other Women — this is the strategy the women of the White House staff employed. It’s as simple as repeating points that other women have made, being sure to give them credit. “We just started doing it, and made a purpose of doing it. It was an everyday thing,” described a former Obama aide in the Washington Post article. This has the 1–2 punch of preventing others from taking credit and requiring everyone to recognize where the idea originated.
- Encourage Full Participation — it’s not just anecdotal; studies have found that men speak up to 75% more than women do in meetings. If you’re the organizer of a meeting, you have the power to encourage more participation from your female coworkers.
- Redirect Interruptions — studies continue to confirm what you may already know — women are interrupted (by all genders) more than men. When you’re leading the meeting, you have an opportunity, and the responsibility, to redirect the conversation. Maryam Banikarim, Global CMO of Hyatt Hotels, recommends stopping the interrupters (kindly) and “reminding them that there is a window where there will be room for feedback”. This is a great opportunity to then ask the person who was interrupted to continue their thoughts.
The Queen Bee concept, where there’s only room for one powerful woman in the executive and/or boardroom and little time for mentoring the next generation of strong women is thankfully one that is finally dying. As increased gender equality brings more and more women into leadership positions, the need to build stronger and supportive relationships within your team and among your coworkers is even more important.
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