You know that thing that happens when a woman shares an idea and no one says anything but then a few minutes later a man repeats it and people think what a good idea HE just came up with? It has happened to me many times and I expect it has happened to you. Over my 35 years working in energy it frustrates me that this occurrence hasn’t really stopped. I have worked 25 years in the industry and 10 years in government, in plants and offices in 8 cities in 3 countries – it seems to happen everywhere. It also aggravates me that most people I know refer to the phenomenon as something like “you know that thing when you say something and no one seems to hear, but then …”
The phenomenon defined: man-claiming
So to the easier of these two quandaries first – let’s call this phenomenon man-claiming – the male misappropriation of a female’s idea. It is fairly self-explanatory and is a nice rhyming companion to “man-splaining”. But more importantly, I want to share and seek ideas about how to work together to have our ideas heard.
What can be done about man-claiming?
Although tempting, I am afraid I must rule out shouting, “That was my idea!” as the best solution.
Often women follow the path of least resistance in this situation – focusing on the idea and giving up any credit.
They tell themselves, “It is really the work that is important. As long as someone acts on the idea, that is what matters.” I appreciate the selflessness of putting the mission of the organization first, but this doesn’t seem like the right solution either.
A potential solution
Moving in the right direction is the solution that I am using now – women supporting women. If a man “adopts” a woman’s idea in a meeting, another woman in the room says something like,
“Edward, I am glad
you are reinforcing the idea
Cate just mentioned”.
But this solution requires at least one other woman in the meeting and that is not always the case. Also I resist the premise that this is something that must be solved solely by women.
Men and man-claiming
I am extremely curious how others are handling man-claiming, and particularly how to get men involved in the solution. I work with men; I like men; I do not want to think they are consciously stealing credit. Is it possible they are unaware when they do this or when someone else does it to the female colleague sitting next to them? How do women get past our voices seeming imperceptible when sharing a good idea, yet unforgettably shrill if we call someone out for appropriating our idea? As with most things a light touch and a sense of humor are likely needed.
Join the conversation
I want to open this up to creative ideas – preferably ones that include men as part of the solution. Please join the conversation in the comments or on social media. Use the hashtag #ManClaim or #manclaiming to describe your experiences and your solutions.
Carol will give a keynote as part of the GasTech program on Diversity and Inclusion in Houston on September 18, 2019.
Carol is pictured here with former DOE Secretary Ernest Moniz who is an ally against man-claiming.