September 22, 2016

What can female HR professionals do to amplify their voice?

You may or may not have heard of ‘Shine Theory’, but it has reportedly worked wonders for the female aides to US president Barack Obama.

‘Shine Theory’ is a term used by Ann Friedman in particular. Friedman is an American journalist and podcaster and she espoused the benefits of ‘Shine Theory’ in a 2013 post entitled ‘Shine Theory: Why Powerful Women Make the Greatest Friends’. Basically, the idea is that it’s easier to shine as a woman when surrounded by other women who also shine. “I don’t shine if you don’t shine,” said Friedman.

Hence, women should support each other by routinely and publicly celebrating and bolstering each other’s successes. What women should not do, according to Friedman, is feel threatened by another woman’s success, compete for recognition and career advancement, or worse still, try to detract from another woman’s successes. Women should work together to achieve greater success, rather than be rivals. “Surrounding yourself with the best people doesn’t make you look worse by comparison,” she also said. “It makes you look better.”

How has this worked for the female aides in Obama’s Cabinet office? They reportedly told the Washing Post that they had banded together and were using ‘amplification’ to ensure their voices were heard.

This ‘amplification’ took the form of repeating each other’s suggestions in order to make sure the suggestions were properly heard and noted. Equally importantly, they wanted to ensure that their names were linked to their ideas so that no-one else could appropriate their ideas and take the credit.

Has it made a difference? Well, the Cabinet office was predominantly male when Obama took office, but there are a lot more female representatives now.

There is no doubt that having high profile female role models inspires other women to achieve, so it makes sense for women to champion other women. There are many more women in prominent, strategic positions than ever before – there are no longer any all-male boards in the FTSE 100 and the number of women on FTSE 350 boards has more than doubled since 2001, according to ‘The Female FTSE Board 2016’ report. Great news. However, there is still a long way to go and we need a lot more amplification and ‘Shine Theory’ to truly redress the balance.

With this advice in mind, what can female HR professionals do to amplify their voice and use a bit of ‘Shine Theory’?

– Look at the successful women you encounter at work. What makes them shine and stand out from others? Talk to them, learn from them and celebrate their achievements.
– Network. Seek out women who you think shine and not just in your own profession. There are networking events and groups that are just for women – join or attend a few to see if it’s useful and who you can meet.
– Help women shine at work. As an HR pro, it’s your job to promote equal opportunities and improve diversity. Do that by publicly recognising and highlighting the activities and success stories of women that shine.

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