Amplification: Ways Women Can Ally for One Another // Johanna Riojas, B.A.

Photo cred: The University News. 

Recently, an article was published about women in White House using a technique called “amplification” in order to increase the likelihood that women’s ideas and voices would be heard rather than ignored by the men (The Washington Post). Women would repeat ideas from each other while giving credit to the original individual (The Washington Post). I found this article intriguing, and it seemed to answer another question a colleague and I had been discussing. She is a white woman in my cohort, and I am a Hispanic woman. She has verbalized to me that she wants to learn how to ally for women of color in our program but what is a strategy that she could learn and utilize?
            I pondered this for several weeks and it was not until I read this article that I found a really excellent starting point. Women, by default, are generally not listened to as much as men are. Women of color even less so. The idea of amplification struck me as something that all women in a higher education program can engage in for one another. Amplification can cross race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identification, and position in the program. Amplification is easy and simple to engage in and it requires one thing taught across all masters and doctoral psychology programs: active listening. Listen to your fellow women in your program and help them get their ideas heard by people who would otherwise ignore them. In the White House, women found that amplification served to increase the number of women who were invited to important meetings with President Obama and increased the number of women he would refer to for feedback and ideas (The Washington Post). This effect can be recreated in academia and other psychological professions across the country by women starting to engage in this practice.
            A humorous anecdote was relayed to me from a friend I have in another doctoral program. In her class, there was a male presenter struggling to get a link to work using Internet Explorer, however the link refused to work. After watching the presenter attempt to open the link multiple times, a female peer of his spoke up about how perhaps the male student should attempt to open the link with Google Chrome. This suggestion was not acknowledged and the presenter continued attempting to open the link with Internet Explorer, to the frustration of his student peer audience. Shortly after, a second woman peer suggested using Google Chrome. At this point, my friend emphatically stated that the entire classroom heard both of these women suggest the same thing only for it to again not be heard or acknowledged by the presenter. Finally, after the presenter almost gave up on the link, the professor – a woman – suggested using Google Chrome. To the students’ chagrin, the presenter followed his professor’s suggestion and successfully opened the link with Google Chrome. While my friend told me this story as part of a venting session to process her frustration out the male student ignoring his women peers, I saw it as an example of women combating the very thing my friend was frustrated about. Whether it was purposeful, eventually the presenter acknowledged that first peer’s idea of trying another browser to open his presentation link.
            While this is a small scale example of amplification at work, it demonstrates that women may not be heard until the third or fourth iteration of an idea. Whether the student intended to overlook two of his women peers’ suggestion, the reality is that he did. Despite them saying the suggestion loud enough to be heard by the rest of the classroom, even the professor. This anecdote also demonstrates the power of amplification at work. This is officially a call to women, regardless of how you identify, in higher education to begin purposefully utilizing amplification in your professional and personal worlds. Help your fellow woman get heard so that women are invited in larger number to important meetings. Let our sisters in the White House serve as an example of women raising women up. Let us use our collective voices to make sure we get heard, even if it takes three or four iterations of the ideas.

Written by Johanna Riojas, BA

References: Eilperin, J. (2016). White House women want to be in the room where it happens. The Washington Post.

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