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Our hospital Executive Team is made up of seven members: 6 men and 1 woman (me, the Chief of Human Resources). During Executive Team meetings, I often find that my ideas are either not acknowledged or met with resistance until a male colleague restates the idea and gets credit as his original thought. I often point out, “I just said that,” but not even that comment seems to be heard.  I’m tired of feeling invisible. Can you recommend another strategy that won’t fall on deaf ears?


Answer: First, it’s important to acknowledge that you earned your seat at the table just like each of your colleagues. Your ideas have merit. Second, be aware that idea-cannibalization happens to both men and women. Treat this less as a gender issue and more of an opportunity to polish your political skills. Here’s how to take ownership of your seat and your ideas by modeling professionalism with political savvy.

The next time a colleague takes credit for your idea, respond by saying, “Thanks for reinforcing my point, _______ (insert name of colleague).”  Doing so with composure allows you to reclaim your idea without being defensive.  Follow up by briefly offering detail or clarification, and inviting the idea-usurping colleague to flesh out the topic with you before the next Executive Team meeting.

This is not to say that women don’t have this experience more than men in the workplace. Mother Jones ran an article titled, “Ladies Last: 8 Inventions by Women That Dudes Got Credit For.”  Sometimes, good ideas are stolen outright.  Other times, brainstorming involves thinking out loud until a vague suggestion gets refined in real time. Don’t take it personally. If your idea truly has merit, it will be good for the organization and worthy of taking initiative and forging consensus.


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