The American Presidential Debate on Monday pulled back an important curtain. For many, it was just another foray into Trump’s ingratiating, hyper-aggressive campaign style: a pompous blow-hard who struts around on stage pontificating his message that what makes America great is xenophobia, racism, and misogyny.
But last night pulled back the curtain on something else insidious, the way that women - important, educated, and powerful women - struggle to get their voices heard, often times by people who are less qualified, and less knowledgeable than them.
Regardless of your opinion of Hillary Clinton, no one can deny her experience, especially when contrasted with Donald Trump’s. According to her website, “Hillary Clinton has served as Secretary of State, Senator from New York, first lady of the United States, first lady of Arkansas, as a practicing lawyer and law professor, activist, and volunteer.” Her experience in politics is unparalleled; she has been in public life and politics for 40 years.
Trump, on the other hand, has no experience in politics. Zero. However, during the debate, Trump interrupted her 51 times, compared to her at 17. In the first 25 minutes alone, Trump interrupted Hillary 26 times, according to USA Today. This may seem shocking to people who have never been in this boat, or to those who think this must be unique to the debate, but the reality is that this experience is par for the course for most women.
As Emily Crockett and and Sarah Frostenson write: “Men are more likely to interrupt other people in general, and they interrupt women more often than they interrupt other men. This pattern harms women in many ways, particularly when it comes to career advancement. For most women in the workplace, the phenomenon is exhaustingly familiar: A woman offers an idea in a meeting, but nobody notices or acknowledges it until a man later says the same thing. When women are interrupted more often, they are heard less. And sometimes they are interrupted more often because they are already heard less.”
This is a struggle that is not just about doing what’s right. When women’s voices are cut short or blocked out, companies miss out on value-added inputs; women have ideas and contributions that bolster a business’ bottom line. In an Op-Ed piece for The Washington Post Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg writes: “Research shows that gender equality is as good for business as it is for individuals. Diverse teams and companies produce better results and higher revenue and profits, which lead to more opportunity for everyone, not just women.”
So what can be done?
First of all, just having the conversation and recognizing this pattern is important. If you were offended by Donald Trump, that’s good! Realizing this is a pattern that holds women back, talent back, and erodes business is next. When women can’t participate in meaningful ways, their numbers start to drop, which negatively affects everyone.
A study released on 27 September by by LeanIn.Org and McKinsey & Co, Women in the Workplace 2016, finds that “Women get less access to the people and opportunities that advance careers and are disadvantaged in many of their daily interactions. These inequities appear to take a toll on women: They are less likely to think they have equal opportunities for growth and development—and more likely to think their gender will play a role in missing out on a raise, promotion, or chance to get ahead.”
Men, let women talk
On the other hand, women generally support each other. In her article for The Washington Post, Juliet Eilperin explains that professional women in the White House worked together to make sure that they were all heard. “Female staffers adopted a meeting strategy they called “amplification”: When a woman made a key point, other women would repeat it, giving credit to its author. This forced the men in the room to recognize the contribution — and denied them the chance to claim the idea as their own.”
Let women talk because you don’t want to be like Trump and because there’s a financial advantage to giving those with the most talent the opportunity to speak, not just those with the loudest voices. The McKinsey Global Institute in their report, The power of parity: How advancing women’s equality can add $12 trillion to global growth found that if every country worked to narrow the gender gap, says “the world could add $12 trillion to annual gross domestic product in 2025.“
But in order to cash-in on the benefits of parity, we must make it a priority. As Faraz Khan, Founder and CEO of Soukare, a Dubai-based healthcare start-up explains: "In our relentless pursuit of maximizing shareholder value, diversity seems to be the most common victim as we focus too hard on the outward facing elements of our enterprises. This loss of diversity means that we miss out on many great ideas and initiatives, ones that have immense value-creating potential.SHOW MORE