What Works for Women at Work: Answers to Common Questions – Stolen Idea?

What Works for Women at Work: Answers to Common Questions – Stolen Idea?

What Works for Women at Work: Answers to Common Questions – Stolen Idea?

I suggest a good idea

I often find that I suggest a good idea in a meeting and it is ignored or overshadowed by the rest of the conversation. Later, someone suggests my idea—or an idea very like mine—and that person ends up with the credit. What can I do to make my voice heard?

It sounds like you’ve had a run in with The Stolen Idea.

The Stolen Idea happens for two reasons: one, feminine women (or women pressured into femininity) may be less likely to state an idea in a way that commands people’s attention, making it easy to overlook. Stanford sociologist Cecilia Ridgeway studies this phenomena and found that women tend to use tentative, deferential speech forms, including verbal hedges and disclaimers (“I’m not sure if this is correct, but . . .”) and posing statements as questions (“Don’t you think . . . ?”). Women do this in mixed-sex groups, Ridgeway found, but not in women-only groups.

Two, since the traits consistent with leadership and idea generation are gendered masculine, it makes more cognitive “sense” for the man’s to assert a good idea than for a women, making it easier for others to pick up on.

Not getting credit for something you said may not feel like a big deal. But losing credit for a series of ideas over time, or one idea that turns out to have long term and positive impact for your company definitely is. So it’s important to learn how to slyly make sure that those within the meeting know it’s your idea, without triggering Tightrope bias for being too “pushy,” “assertive,” or “mean.”

Here are a few ways that savvy successful women have gotten credit where credit was due:

  • “You said it so more eloquently than I, but that was exactly the point I was trying to raise.”
  • “Interesting that you should say that. That’s exactly the point I was trying to make. “
  • “I’m trying to understand. Are you disagreeing with me? I think that we’re making the same point. However, if you have a different point, I want to understand. I think we’re saying the same thing.”
What these three examples show is that it is possible to regain credit without embarrassing the other person or accusing them of ill-will. Questions and compliments, both used above, are good softeners to ensure your idea is remembered, not your “rudeness.”

Run into a stolen idea issue of your own? Then Ask the New Girls!


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2 comments

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  • Michelle Glauser December 6, 2013 Reply

    Very diplomatic. Thanks for these.

  • Terri December 6, 2013 Reply

    “You said it so more eloquently than I, but that was exactly the point I was trying to raise.”
    “Interesting that you should say that. That’s exactly the point I was trying to make. “
    “I’m trying to understand. Are you disagreeing with me? I think that we’re making the same point. However, if you have a different point, I want to understand. I think we’re saying the same thing.”

    On the right track, but why so submissive? Why tell the first guy he said it more eloquently than you? He just said it again. The second guy–this wasn’t the point she was “trying to” make, it’s the point she *did* make and he’s unnecessarily making it again. That third guy, “I think” we’re saying the same thing isn’t necessary. She can say, “We’re saying the same thing.”

    It’s not necessary to be rude and it’s counterproductive.

    But these comments are too submissive and will not result in proper credit being given for the idea. It’ll just be a woman commenting on something the *man* said (more eloquently, effectively making the point the woman was only *trying* to make but he actually made it, and stating a fact/opinion without “I think” in front of it).

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