Job search site Dice recently published a survey of 3,993 professionals about discrimination in the workforce. According to the study, 62 percent of women say that their ideas are ignored until repeated by men. In fact, more than half of women in tech alone said the same.
By 2020, there will be 1.4 million jobs in computer science and, of those roles, women are on track to fill three percent of them. And 63 percent of women surveyed don’t see things getting any better for women in leadership in this calendar year.
We asked women in tech if they've ever felt that their ideas are ignored but then reclaimed by men as their own, and here's what they had to say.
1. Suggestions for Improvements Were Often Dismissed
"Oh man, this totally happened to me a lot at my last job," says Kirsten Moorefield, co-founder of tech company Cloverleaf.me. "In a previous job, I would often speak up about structural ways the company was set up to be unable to accomplish promises we made to clients through sales. My suggestions for improvements were often dismissed, then brought up months later from a male boss who framed them as his own original ideas. Turns out, my ideas really worked! But of course, I was livid. To be fair, this didn't just happen to me as a woman, there were men who complained about the same issue at the company. And I truly think my boss did not remember me saying it, rather my suggestions planted a seed in his subconscious that took root months later as his own idea. But that didn't justify the fact that my insight and experience was not taken seriously. I felt so unheard for years that I eventually told my leadership 'Look, there are rumors of layoffs coming. If they do come, you can lay me off.' They were shocked. They promoted me the next day. Three days later, they laid off five people. I was not one of them."
2. "He-Peating" Felt Like a Way of Life
"I just learned the term for this — 'he-peat' — when a man has to repeat what you said for it to be heard and then the man gets the credit," says Bobbie Carlton of Innovation Women. "Having worked in tech for more than 30 years, he-peating almost seemed like a way of life. I found various ways around it:
- Thanks, I’m glad you liked my idea or Thanks, glad we agree on what should be done.
- Enlisting an outside consultant to share my ideas in meetings to give them the proper “airing” (Sometimes I was more concerned that things get accomplished and not concerned on who gets credit.)
- Enlisting female colleagues to amplify my ideas (and vice versa)
Today, I’m more focused on building thought leadership and credibility so people will pay attention to what I say. I created a self-service online speaker bureau for entrepreneurial and technical women. The goal is to get more women on stage at conferences and events. Speaking engagements drive credibility. If you are chosen to speak, you must be an expert. The audience thinks you have been vetted — that you know more than they do about a given subject. We have almost 4,000 members on our InnovationWomen.com platform — both event managers and speakers, with more being added every day. Speakers receive invitations through the site as well as a weekly email with more than 100 new speaking opportunities every weekly that they can apply. Speaking engagements drive the perception of success. They connect speakers with potential customer, partners, investor and the media. There’s so much that happens for good for you when you get onstage. You can also tell the 'them' to hold their questions to the end and just give a talk, uninterrupted."
3. They've Been Driven to Quit
"I felt so unheard at my last job that I quit altogether," says Katy Penna, an IT specialist. "I was so tired of having my ideas repeated in meetings that I gave up on sharing them. At one point I realized that I wasn't speaking up at all. That's when I realized that, if I didn't feel valued at the company, I needed to find a new one. I became an IT consultant to do my own work so I didn't have to worry about anyone taking my ideas seriously. Now, I work for myself."
AnnaMarie Houlis is a multimedia journalist and an adventure aficionado with a keen cultural curiosity and an affinity for solo travel. She's an editor by day and a travel blogger at HerReport.org by night.