Transcript and more thoughts about the topic below…

Comic about going back to a restrictive work-from-home policy after the pandemic. Transcript below the image.


Manager, PO and Boss are in a meeting room. Manager, a black woman, presents in front of the other two.
Narrator: When someone from an underrepresented group presents an idea and they get ignored...

Manager: My research shows that increasing the budget of the MEDUSA project will yield...

Narrator: ...sometimes, someone else will later present that same idea as theirs.

Now, Boss is presenting and the other two are listening.
Boss: You know, why don't we increase the budget of the MEDUSA project by 20%?

Narrator: When that happens*, which kind of colleague do you choose to be?
And would you even notice?

PO (choice 1): Great idea, Steve!

PO (choice 2): Sarah, you brought up that idea before, and I would love to hear more about your research!

It’s a Choice

Presenting someone else’s ideas as one’s own is never OK. And it seems to happen particularily often to people from underrepresented groups.

But can’t they speak out themselves? Maybe they could, but:

  • It always has more impact when someone else points it out, no matter who’s idea it was originally. When the person who did the original work points it out themselves, Boss might accuse them of being over-sensitive or uncooperative.
  • If that original idea did not come from a person from an underrepresented group, others would probably support that person.

If you are, like me, a white, cis-gender, heterosexual man who learned the language of their country as his mother tongue, many things are easier for you than for others. That doesn’t mean that we don’t have to work hard or that there are no people that have even more privilege (one could have been born into a wealthy family, for example).

Imagine how much harder you’d have to work if you didn’t possess all of the traits above. Even small choices matter. When we choose to support the Boss in the situation above, we choose to keep the playing field as tilted as it is right now.

But we do have a choice. If we notice. And I fear I don’t always notice—but I try to.

And whatever you do, don’t be the person that presents someone else’s work as their own!