A little less than a year ago, The Washington Post made a splash with an article about how the women in the Obama White House were helping raise each other’s professional profiles using a tool called amplification.
Here’s how it worked, as reported by the Post:
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.
“We just started doing it, and made a purpose of doing it. It was an everyday thing,” said one former Obama aide who requested anonymity to speak frankly. Obama noticed, she and others said, and began calling more often on women and junior aides.
When Obama entered the White House in 2009, women made up about one-third of his inner circle of advisers. By the beginning of his second term in 2013, they made up about half, according to the Post.
There’s no way to know if the amplification strategy played a part in that change, but it’s not unreasonable to conclude that women making a concerted effort to support and help raise each other’s profiles had something to do with it.
Using Amplification to Help Achieve Gender Parity
It’s no secret that gender parity is lagging in the legal profession, with women making up just 18 percent of equity partners, according to the National Association for Law Placement. And women only make up 25 percent of general counsel among Fortune 500 companies.
The reasons behind that lack of parity are many and complex, including unconscious bias, straight-up discrimination and sexism in both promotion and compensation, grueling hours that break the spirits of even the most ambitious working parents, and a general discomfort some women have with the kinds of self-promotion that will get them noticed.
As a marketing professional, I am ill-equipped to address the first three on that list. I have, however, dedicated myself to helping lawyers, especially women lawyers, overcome their discomfort with self-promotion.
I’ve written before on that topic, and I generally take every opportunity to counsel women lawyers to adopt a healthier attitude toward marketing themselves.
Not Comfortable with Self-Promotion?
Amplification, however, is more of a team sport. Even better, for women who are reluctant to promote themselves, you can rest easy knowing that amplification isn’t tooting your own horn. Instead, you’re promoting other women (who, per your agreement, are promoting you in return).
(On a related topic, your amplification buddy can also be your interruption buddy. An interruption buddy steps in when a woman is interrupted in a meeting – and chances are, she will be – and says: “Just a second, I don’t think she was done with what she was saying,” which allows her friend to finish her thought.)
Amplification isn’t limited to meetings, either. It can be deployed in multiple ways:
Step one: Find one or more “amplification buddies,” women whose work you respect, and ask them to work with you to promote each other professionally.
Step two: Look for opportunities to promote each other through various channels, including:
Social media: Following, retweeting, liking and sharing each other’s content on your respective social feeds (especially LinkedIn, which is well-regarded by general counsel, and Twitter, which is way more fun).
Speaking engagements: If you’re asked to help find speakers for CLEs or bar or trade association gatherings, look for ways to secure speaking spots for women.
Writing opportunities: Recommend your amplification buddies for writing spots in law journals, blogs or trade publications.
Media relations: Reporters tend to call their usual suspects, most of whom are male. If you have a relationship with a reporter, tip him or her off to the women in your sphere who would make great sources for their legal stories.
Referrals: The mother of all amplifiers, of course, is referrals. If you’re asked for a referral, and the women you know are right for the job, refer the work to them.
None of these ideas are revolutionary, of course. Men have been using them for as long as there has been commerce.
If the women you know and work with aren’t amplifying each other yet, now is the time to start.
Amy Boardman Hunt began her career in legal journalism and has been in legal marketing and public relations since 1997. When she’s not helping lawyers grow their business, she’s trying to find someone to go hiking with her. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.