Ever mention an idea in a meeting, only to hear someone else restate it as their own, and then get the credit for your great thought?

After hearing women in particular voice frustration over this issue time and again, I conducted formal research in 2015-2016 in the US and Europe, with Women of Color, Caucasian women, and Asian women. The research confirmed women experience this fairly regularly; and reported the person ‘taking their idea’ was usually a man. I also asked 50 men if they observed ideas given by women being ‘taken’ by men in typical meetings. Interestingly, they had little to no awareness of this happening. I frequently address this subject and my research findings as a women’s leadership keynote speaker at major conferences in the US and internationally.

While my study didn’t focus on why there is a disparity in the experience of men and women on this issue, I have some thoughts. The first thought is my firmly held view that men don’t do these things with evil intent. Men and women in corporations today are just doing the best they can under increasingly challenging circumstances. My second thought is that regardless of gender, we are all under tremendous pressure to perform and contribute at work. So, when an idea is put forward and it’s a good one, it’s highly likely somebody’s going to take it, build on it, and get behind it. One negative consequence is that women can feel robbed of the credit they deserve for their contribution.

Rather than grouse about it, let’s just acknowledge it happens, and move to what can we do about it. As a women’s leadership keynote speaker and an executive coach, I rarely believe it’s in my audience or coachee’s best interest to create a scene in a meeting. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t advocate for yourself. So, next time you have a good idea to share in a meeting, here’s a way to get credit for your contribution:

  • State the idea, immediately paraphrase yourself and then REPEAT it.
  • Use a louder voice volume when you say it, and ensure you are looking at others in the eye and they are looking at you.
  • IMMEDIATELY, before anyone else can say anything, say the idea a THIRD time and ask what people think about it and how it could be implemented or otherwise used.

Return to Good Reads

  • State idea, paraphrase and repeat
  • Use louder voice and ensure eye contact with colleagues
  • Repeat a third time and ask for feedback

- Susan Hodgkinson

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