• Motto

Obama’s Female Staffers Make Shine Theory Shine

2 minute read

If you haven’t heard of it, the concept known as Shine Theory was put forth by Ann Friedman in 2013. It essentially holds that when you meet a woman who is rad, you should befriend her rather than view her as competition. Though you might be stuck in the trap of thinking that there’s a finite amount of shine for women in the world and that she’s sucking up what could be yours, you’ll find that her company actually makes you shine brighter. Rising shine lifts all women, and so forth.

Politics is still an overwhelmingly male career path, and that holds true at all levels of the field, even under feminist leaders like President Obama. Back in 2008, female Obama staffers quickly noticed that they were the workplace minority and being categorically passed over in meetings. This would have been enough to make anyone—regardless of gender—insecure and competitive, but the female aides had the solidarity and foresight to fight for the bigger picture.

According to the Washington Post, “…female staffers adopted a meeting strategy they called “amplification”: 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.”


Per an anonymous female staffer, the women began doing this on a daily basis, and all the president’s men took notice. Lest you think this use of Shine Theory is just a feel-good soundbite without any practical ripple effect, I’ll also leave you with this tidy lil Post nugget:

“During Obama’s second term, women gained parity with men in the president’s inner circle; Clinton has actually had women outnumber men at times among her senior staff.”

More Must-Reads from TIME

Contact us at letters@time.com