For some time now, the term mansplaining has helped us identify the condescending way in which an individual—most often male—explains a topic to another individual—typically a woman—on which she is already an expert. Now, 2017 has given us “hepeating.” A term to describe the level of clout given to a man presenting an idea over a woman who presented the same idea earlier.
I’ve seen it happen to many of my brilliant female colleagues. And, I’ve had it happen to me more times than I can count. Both professionally and personally. I’ve had consulting positions where I would run into walls pushing process and strategy changes. Only to have a male consultant come in and demolish those very same walls in one meeting with the same ideas I’d been presenting for months.
In this instance, the male consultant had no idea he was suggesting ideas I’d already been fighting for, but that’s not always the case. It can happen in the room almost immediately with the male colleague to your left re-pitching an idea you mentioned earlier in the same meeting.
Regardless of how it’s hepeated, the issue is that ideas coming from women aren’t being given the same level of respect ideas coming from men receive. It’s dismissive, disheartening and demoralizing. Yet, somehow, putting a name to it takes away some of its power.
If something has a name, it’s a common enough occurrence that it’s become part of larger conversations. And that means we’re not alone in our experience. This realization is truly half the battle when it comes to most struggles, isn’t it? Now that we’ve overcome that hurdle with hepeating, what’s next?
Know It’s Not You
When your ideas get ignored or you get talked down to at work, it can be easy to take it personally. To look at it as a statement about your presentation skills, intelligence or aptitude for the job. But, like other sexist behavior in the workplace, it’s not a reflection on you. It’s a reflection of the person exhibiting the behavior. Reminding yourself of this will be key to maintaining your confidence—and sanity.
Call It Out
In the moment or after the fact, bringing attention to the hepeating the person repeating the idea or those embracing it more emphatically because it came from a male voice can help curb the behavior in the future. Especially if they don’t even realize they’re doing it in the first place.
Be an Ally and Amplify
It’s not easy or always possible to call out hepeating when it’s happening to you. Find allies to amplify your ideas and do the same for other colleagues. When you see a woman’s ideas being dismissed, speak up. Reshare a good idea, giving credit to the original author before it has a chance to get dismissed and later hepeated. This is a tactic women in Obama’s White House employed long before we had a term for the phenomenon.
Talk About It
Hepeating is one of the many ways women become silenced in the workplace. By ignoring the action, we give it power. By talking about it we take that power back. The reason we’re talking about hepeating right now is because one woman wasn’t afraid to bring it up on Twitter. Talk about it to your colleagues, to your friends, in public forums. Ingrained behavior is never going to change unless we call—loudly—for the change.
/written by Eliza Green
/photo by Nik MacMillan