Claiming Credit for your Ideas and Career Success

Do you know how to take credit for your idea? Claiming credit for your ideas is not an easy feat for many women and it can be crucial to your career success. These tips will tell you how to make it happen!

By Mariela Dabbah

Celebrate the ideas of others. It makes claiming credit for your ideas easier when the time comes. Photo credit:

Celebrate the ideas of others. It makes claiming credit for your ideas easier when the time comes.
Photo credit:

For many women and people raised in families that emphasize the value of humility, claiming credit for one’s ideas is not part of their DNA. It’s a behavior often equated with arrogance and, in a corporate environment, with not being a team player. But bosses promote individuals, not teams, so being recognized for your individual contributions is important for your career success. Hoping to get noticed without actively making your work known to others doesn’t usually work that well.

Career Success: If you have a strong brand, you don’t need to be so vigilant

When there’s enough buzz around you, when you have a strong personal brand and colleagues and bosses know who you are and what you bring to the table, you can relax a bit more. You don’t have to keep your guard up all the time to make sure nobody steals your ideas because people know the kind of ideas that usually come from you. So, make sure you network with your boss, his/her boss, and laterally with bosses and peers who work in other departments. The more people know you, the more insurance you have against your ideas being credited to someone else.

Claiming Credit for your Ideas and Career Success: Sharing your ideas with your network ensures people know you are the source

Sharing your ideas with your network ensures people know you are the source

When claiming credit for your ideas is a challenge

It’s not unusual for women to propose an idea at the beginning of a meeting and have it overlooked or dismissed only to hear the same idea cheered when presented by someone else (often a man) later on. If this happens repeatedly, you may end up feeling disengaged from your job, which will eventually be detrimental to your growth. So your goal is to find a way to claim credit for your idea without turning people off while letting them know you’re ready to stand behind your contributions. There are several ways to do this, and the best approach will vary case by case.

  • Say to the person who “stole” your idea: “I’m glad you see the point I made earlier. Let’s discuss how we can work on this together.” Or, “That’s exactly what I was trying to say a while ago, and I’m glad you were able to express it in a way that the group understood the idea.”
  • You could ask, “What has changed from when I proposed the same thing an hour ago? I’d like to understand and make sure we are looking at it the right way.”
  • Don’t say anything and approach the person who “stole” the idea after the meeting and let him/her know you know what just happened. That will likely deter them from doing it again in the future.
Claiming credit for your ideas is key for your career growth

Claiming credit for your ideas is key for your career growth

Easiest way of claiming credit for your ideas? Send them in writing!

Let’s face it: Most of our communications take place digitally. A great way to cover yourself from potential “idea pilfering” is to send a note to all stakeholders before a meeting sharing some key concepts you’ll discuss later in person. This way everyone knows it came from you.

In addition, celebrating other people’s ideas in writing is not only a great way to show your support for your colleagues’ careers but also a way to brand yourself as a team player. Something that can become very useful when the time comes to stand up for your own contribution.

Claiming credit for your ideas or making sure they are executed properly?

As with everything in life, you should always pick your battles. There are many situations when the execution of the idea is more important than receiving the credit for it. If that’s the case, rather than claiming credit for your idea, you should make sure to be part of its execution even if that means supporting another team. In the end, having an idea that never sees the light of day is much less powerful than bringing it to fruition.

It’s critical for women to find ways to be more visible, and standing behind your work both privately and publicly is one of the ways in which you can achieve this goal.

Career Quiz: Are you ready to move up the ladder?

Career Quiz: Are you ready to move up the ladder?

Career Quiz: Are you ready to move up the ladder?

Do you sometimes wonder whether you’re ready to move up the ladder?  Do you question your interest in taking on more responsibility or even going through any required training?

Undoubtedly, in order to move up the ladder you’ll need to take some risks and accept stretch assignments that present you with challenging situations. You might need to work extra hours and perhaps learn a new skill. The advantage is that more and more companies are looking for ways to promote their female and diverse talent. So if you have an inkling that you want to move up the ladder and expand your career opportunities this Quiz can help you assess how close from your goal you are. It will put you in touch with signs you ought to be looking for and strategies you may need to devise to move up the ladder in your career.  Go ahead, take it and then tell us how it went!


Now, are you ready to find out if you have Executive Presence? Take our Quiz! 🙂

Empowering Women: Asking Tough Questions

Empowering Women for Career Success

Empowering Women for Career Success

Even the best intentions sometimes fall short. This is often the case when it comes to empowering women. There are plenty of programs out there focused on empowering women that unwittingly play against their own missions.  Just recently, one of my clients brought into her company a three-day training program where participants where repeatedly told in no uncertain terms that they needed to wear jackets to project executive presence. There was no room left for individual self-expression, nor any in-depth discussion of what executive presence really means and the various ways in which it is projected. No, during this particular program, participants were strongly encouraged to adapt to the reigning style of the corporation set in place and upheld by the executive-majority – middle-aged white males — if they hoped to grow beyond middle management.

How are you empowering women in your organization?

Undoubtedly, that’s the antithesis of empowering women. It’s common knowledge that you take people’s power away when you ask them to check their style and personality at the door and adopt someone else’s style – be that the dress code, the way they express themselves, the way they think, or the way they relate to others.  Equally important as allowing women to bring their style and personality to work is providing an environment where women feel comfortable asking tough questions. Yet, when women are asked to leave their uniqueness at home, it’s unlikely that they’ll feel comfortable asking colleagues questions that can help them understand unspoken rules that can open doors to better opportunities.

There’s has to be a clear connection between your words and specific actions or the culture of your organization is unlikely to change and promoting women to higher positions becomes harder.

There’s has to be a clear connection between your words and specific actions or the culture of your organization is unlikely to change and promoting women to higher positions becomes harder.

Questions that relate to the salary range others are making for similar positions, what packages their male counterparts have received to move for a long-term assignment, how to break into a certain powerful clique within the company, and so on. Questions that you don’t ask when you don’t feel empowered.

So you could be talking about empowering women from here until 2050, but unless there’s a clear connection between your words and specific actions, the culture of your organization is unlikely to change and years from now you’ll still be wondering why is it so hard to promote more women to higher positions.

Empowering Women with Actions

Here are a few things you can start looking into right away, if your goal is to prepare more women for career success.

    • Understand your internal hiring and promotion processes. How do you define executive presence? What are the unwritten expectations of someone with executive presence? Can that definition be expanded to include more women? Do your executive positions all involve a lifestyle few women can adjust to? Are there any areas of flexibility? Do you pass over women for promotions assuming they won’t be up to a job that demands travel?
    • Evaluate openness to employee input. How open is your organization’s management to listening and implementing ideas from women at lower levels? How do you reward those ideas?
Understand your internal hiring and promotion processes. How do you define executive presence? What are the unwritten expectations of someone with executive presence?

Understand your internal hiring and promotion processes. How do you define executive presence? What are the unwritten expectations of someone with executive presence?

  • Create circles of trust. Do you offer opportunities for your employees to meet in smaller groups and discuss honestly critical career issues? Are they structured in a way that elicits mutual trust?
  • Review your unwritten dress code. Are you upholding codes initially established by and for men in the workplace? How can they be adjusted to embrace different styles for women?

If empowering women is a top priority for you, you may find yourself analyzing the core culture of your company to identify areas that need small tweaks and others that require a complete make over. Start somewhere, anywhere. Any step, even a small one, is a step in the right direction.

Overcoming Adversity with a Smile: Using your Own Inspirational Story

Overcoming Adversity

Overcoming Adversity

Leaders are always looking for inspiring stories to share with their audiences. Sometimes that inspirational story comes in the shape of an acquaintance or a public person who reached his/her goals by overcoming adversity and others it’s about the leader’s own journey. I have used both kinds of narrative as storytelling is always a big part of getting my message across.

But regardless of the topic I’m presenting on, the inescapable truth is that English is my second language. So on many occasions, language itself becomes the topic of the presentation giving me the chance to either turn it into an inspirational story about my overcoming diversity or, allow it to be an obstacle in communicating the message.

As hard as it is to examine your own language abilities in front of hundreds of strangers, I choose to turn my grammatical foibles into an inspirational story. Something that makes me real to the audience and reveals a vulnerable side of me that makes me relatable as a leader while it leverages my background.  I here share one of my main language struggles as an example of an effective strategy that you might want to try in your next presentation.

I’ve been an English language learner since I was 6-years-old in my native Argentina. I studied the language in an academic environment, thus my almost perfect fluency. “Almost” being the operative word here.

When I began my career as a writer and public speaker in the U.S., I decided to publicly acknowledge that I am prepositionally challenged. That’s right. On and in – two apparently innocuous monosyllables—have been at the forefront of my ongoing tango with English.

My friend and personal editor, Susan Landon, has had the biggest belly laughs and hair pulling episodes while editing my blogs, columns, books and anything else I throw her way. To help you fully appreciate my grammatical handicap here is one of our hilarious exchanges.

I had sent Susan an Op-Ed I was working on, which I had originally entitled: “Black Woman on the Golf Course.” (Admittedly, I had previously checked via phone with her that it was “on the golf course.”) My subject line, however, read: “Black woman in the golf course.”

Susan – It’s ON the golf course!!!!

Me – Sorry, wrong subject line but the title is correct. Did you notice I used your favorite word “eschew”?

Susan – Yes, I noticed “eschew” and I wondered where ON (not IN) earth that came from!! You are really stretching your wings. 🙂

Me – You are such a great influence in me!

Susan – It’s: influence ON me!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I can’t catch a break.

In my defense (and the defense of many second language learners!) there’s little rhyme or reason for the grammatical rules of these two little devils. You wait in line at the store but you’re online on the Internet. Someone is on your side but in your mind. They are on your team but in your heart. Something is on TV, on the radio and on a website, but it’s in a book. It’s in Manhattan but  on Long Island.  Come on!

I have repeatedly studied to no avail the many rules that regulate prepositions in an attempt to discover the patterns that elude me. So, I decided to settle for the second best thing besides speaking prepositionally-perfect English: Knowing that being a frequent user of both Spanish and English delays the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, makes me better at multitasking, and allows me to be keenly aware of what’s important and what’s not at every moment.

Inspiring Stories

Inspiring Stories

A while back, in an interview with the New York Times,  Ellen Bialystok, a cognitive neuro- scientist who has spent 40 years learning about how bilingualism sharpens the mind, said that, according to her research, 5 to 6 year-olds who are bilingual “manifest a cognitive system with the ability to attend to important information and ignore the less important.” How does that work?  Dr. Bialystok explains: “There’s a system in your brain, the executive control system. It’s a general manager. Its job is to keep you focused on what’s relevant, while ignoring distractions. It’s what makes it possible for you to hold two different things in your mind at one time and switch between them. If you have two languages and you use them regularly, the way the brain’s networks work is that every time you speak, both languages pop up and the executive control system has to sort through everything and attend to what’s relevant in the moment. Therefore the bilinguals use that system more, and it’s that regular use that makes that system more efficient.”

After reading this interview, I felt a little bit better about my failures and realized that the smartest way to deal with this would be to make fun of myself, (use it as an “overcoming adversity inspirational story”) and let everyone in on the joke, by asking the audience for help when I stumble upon a set of options that I can’t resolve (“Do you say in your shoes or on your shoes,” I’ve asked in the middle of a keynote speech.)

This strategy has served me well. It never fails to lighten up the mood in the room and it reminds everyone that no matter the obstacles they face, overcoming adversity is part of what makes a leader, a leader.

Zenaida Mendez, National Organization for Women (NOW) New York State President

Zenaida Mendez, National Organization for Women (NOW) New York State President

An avid voice for tolerance, Zenaida Mendez served for almost three years as director of Racial Diversity Programs at the National Organization for Women (NOW) where she successfully spearheaded a diversity and inclusion training program, a woman of color and allies summit, and the campaign on the femicide of the women of Juarez and Chihuahua, Mexico among other initiatives. She served most recently as the project director for the Second National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit. Zenaida also holds the esteemed position of president and founder of the National Dominican Women’s Caucus.

Zenaida Mendez was born in the Dominican Republic and she came as a teenager to the United States with her family. She has a Bachelor’s degree in government and public administration from John Jay College of Criminal Justice and a Master’s degree in public administration from the City University of New York, Graduate School of Affairs. She’s had a long career in public service and as leader of several activist organizations spearheading diversity and inclusion programs and speaking up on behalf of female rights.

The National Organization for Women (NOW) was founded in 1966. Do you think the challenges women face today are the same as they faced back then?

Believe it or not we have not advanced much. Women still make an average of 88 cents for every dollar a man makes.

What are some of the most common challenges women still face in the workplace?

Yes, women have come a long way, but these key challenges remain:

1. Paid Maternity Leave

2. Lack of Leadership Roles

3. Sexual Harassment

4. The Glass Ceiling

What do you find the most satisfying part of your work as an advocate for female rights?

I love to be able to speak to many young women  who do not realize what we went through to get the little bit that we have and how we are still fighting for basic rights: 2013 we are currently trying to pass the Women Equality Act in NYC.

What are some of the most difficult parts of your job?

Not having enough resources to assist women in need, fighting sexism and racism, convincing Latinas of the importance of getting involved in the women’s movement in the U.S.

What would be your advice to women who work in a male dominant industry? Anything they can do to leverage the advantages that come with being a woman?

To Be themselves, do not hesitate in demanding your rights and what you deserve, as women we can multitask easier than man.  Become a member of women’s organizations, that way you have the support of a group.

Could you mention one or more women who have helped you get to where you are now in your career?

Yes,  I am very blessed starting with my mother and my sisters who helped me with my three wonderful daughters when they were little  while I was going to College, without that support it would have been almost impossible for me to obtained my college degrees.

In my professional life there are so many but I’ll mention my dearly departed mentors Diane Morales,  Olga Vives, and Rosalba Polanco . These three women warriors who prematurely departed, left a big empty void in the fight for human rights, they supported me unconditionally. Diane Morales was a long time public education advocate in NYC,  I worked at the Manhattan Borough President Office’s Community Services with Diane she gave me guidance and support working with Communities Boards in NYC; Olga Vives was Action Vice President for the  National Organization for Women in Washington, DC  when she hired me to be NOW’s Director of Diversity programs and — helped coordinate the 2004’s March for Women’s Live, thanks to Olga I traveled  all over the United States reaching out to women to join us in the march. Women of  Color played a vital role in that march. Rosalba Polando, Founder of the Mirabal Sisters Family Center in the Bronx organized and mobilized many women from NYS to attend many conferences and seminars in NYC, Washington, DC and other part of the US that I put together. Rosalba sudden passing in 2011 at the early age of 46 was a blow to the Dominican community in NYC and in her native province Santiago, Dominican Republic where she also supported a Child  Care Center.

You can connect with Zenaida directly at and via the following platforms:

National Organization for Women on Facebook: National Organization for Women – NYS

National Organization for Women onTwitter: @NOWNewYorkState

Connect with the National Organization for Women: