Women must work together to make our voices heard. In fact, in business, and in everyday life, women’s natural strengths are becoming more valuable and as a society we’re embracing the sisterhood of women who are passionate, full of purpose, and driven to change the world.
Apparently though, not everyone got the memo and we’re running headlong into an age-old problem that continues to plague us – manterrupting and bropriating. According to Time, manterrupting is the unnecessary interruption of a woman by a man, and bropriating is the act of taking a woman’s idea and taking credit for it.
I’m sure we can all recall a moment, whether it was last week or last year, where we have fallen victim to these behaviors. These slights aren’t all in our heads. Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant recently wrote in the New York Times about the perils of “speaking while female,” along with new research to prove that this happens to all women at some point.
Sandberg and Grant report that powerful male senators speak significantly more than their junior colleagues, while female senators do not, and male executives who speak more often than their peers are deemed more competent (10% more), while female executives who speak up are considered less (14% less). Following the research, the two found that in the workplace, many women speak less, are interrupted more, and have their ideas more harshly scrutinized.
For some women, manterrupting and bropriating take their inherent difficulties with insecurity, ambivalence, and confusion and run with them. That can make a woman move further back from claiming her seat at the table. Sandberg’s and Grant’s research proves that when confronted with manterrupting and bropriating, women are holding back, or relinquishing credit altogether.
This has to change. Women are fantastic at creating conditions of mutuality, equality, and trust. Women also know the significance of a helping hand, mutual support, and mentorship. Women value the satisfaction and meaning that come from aiding others. That means that women no longer have time to deal with manterrupting and bropriating, and it’s time that these behaviors are recognized and removed from the workplace.
That doesn’t mean all men who interrupt or talk over others need to be shown the door, only that this is a learning opportunity. Smart women recognize the importance of seeking out others who have skills and strengths they don’t already have. When situations previously subjected to manterrupting or bropriating are recognized and treated with respect and civility, debates and disagreements can be productive. In fact, these situations can result in amazing, higher-level creativity. That is as long as both men and women have a place at the table.
Nothing squashes creativity and innovation faster than a perceived lack of respect for others’ opinions. Progress comes from mutual respect. In the past, some women have allowed low self-esteem and fear to drain their power and block the amazing connections they could have been making. But now the pendulum is swinging the other way, and a whole new movement has begun. Women have finally realized that connection and collaboration, not competition, is the answer. That means it’s time to clear the manterrupting and bropriating from the conversation, and truly work together.