Thought Provoking ~ Why Don’t Women Self Promote?

Thought Provoking ~ Why Don’t Women Self Promote?


executive managementAs a woman in corporate America, I am an avid reader of articles and studies about leadership differences between men and women.  I am not here to gripe about the inequities between men and women’s salaries (although they still exist), or about sexual discrimination in the workplace (I’ve been called Honey more times than I can count).  What I would like to discuss is the documented aversion women have to self promotion.  When executives are interviewed about the differences between men and women, one of the themes that occurs again and again is that women don’t self promote.

Now, as a woman, I read Women don’t self promote. and think, “Kudos to women. I want my actions to speak for themselves and don’t want to be a braggart.”

But self promoting isn’t about bragging or exuding arrogance.  It’s about letting others know what skills and strengths you bring to the table.  And no one’s going to know unless you tell them. Being able to self promote is key to succeeding at work and by not being able to self promote, women are hamstringing their careers.

Let’s face it, the people we work with are pretty much the same as us – busy, overscheduled, focused on getting their projects done and their families raised.  It is the rare leader that hunts around trying to figure out what you’ve done today, this week, or this month.   It is our responsibility as employees to make them aware of our contributions.  Not to the exclusion of giving credit where it’s due, but that includes not excluding yourself from the credit.  While you’re handing out the kudos don’t forget to acknowledge the role you played too.

But women (as a whole) don’t do this.  When I asked a small group of executive women why they think this was, here are some of the repeating themes I heard:

  • I was taught to be humble. / I don’t want to be arrogant.
  • I don’t want to brag.
  • I’m more comfortable pointing out other people’s accomplishments than my own.
  • Women are good collaborators, they don’t like to point out individuals.  They feel more comfortable giving kudos to teams.
  • Women are nurturers, they support others into the spotlight rather than themselves.

But we didn’t always feel this way.

Think about the children you know:

  • Ask any 7 year old how their soccer game went and they will immediately tell you how many goals they scored.   No hesitation or concerns about humility.
  • How many times have you heard “Look at me!” from your 4 year old?

Need a reminder?  Watch this video of my 3 year old daughter…

Obviously once upon a time we knew how to cheer for ourselves.

What happened?

I have some ideas, but would like to hear from you.

  • Is it because women are raised to be supportive and men are raised to be assertive?
  • Is it instinctual – women are genetically more inclined toward group oriented tasks than individual?  Hunter vs. Gatherer
  • Is it the feedback we get about being bitchy or bossy or controlling?
  • Is it the toys we play with as children?
  • What do you think it is?

When and why do you think we learn it’s not ok to cheer for ourselves?

Do you have a thought provoking post?

Please link it up below and I’ll make sure to stop by and will pick my top 3 favorites to highlight next week.

Another feature I’ll be adding is a weekly post idea list, so make sure to subscribe to Mom in Management if you’d like some thought provoking writing prompts.

Here are a few:

  1. What do you think of the parents that didn’t reveal their child’s gender until he/she was 5?
  2. Do good leaders work themselves out of a job?
  3. Revealing/tight clothing for little girls – sexualizing our daughters.
  4. When do you think lying is the right thing to do?
  5. What is the worst/best example of leadership, management or parenting that you have seen?



18 Responses to Thought Provoking ~ Why Don’t Women Self Promote?

  1. Thanks for this read. As a self-promoter I always struggle with all of these inside thoughts. If I do not promote, I will go broke but it is not an easy thing to do.

    • You are one of the best examples of effective self promotion without being arrogant or annoying that I’ve ever met Jessica. You definitely do it well. :)

      • Completely agree… Everytime I have met Jessica I am almost in awe of her. She is friendly, engaging and confident without putting you off. She makes you want to be around her and share in her “go getter” vibe.

  2. I love your TPT post… Often times women don’t self promote enough and at some point we are going to have to.

    I can remember trying to tell Gene stuff before we got married about my job and he just glazed over. So I stopped talking about my job accomplishments to him. I think that is when we as women also stop “self promoting” when we have a partner who isn’t supportive in interacting with our accomplishments. It makes it hard to talk about your day when you know the other person, though they might be looking at you, isn’t interacting with you and telling you you did a good job or anything that goes along w/ that… Interaction is a key part of self promoting. We can say we are awesome till we are blue in the face but if we aren’t telling someone who believes in us as much as we believe in ourselves then we are just wasting our breaths…

  3. Really good points Brent. If you were discussing a job with the comments you made above, I would say to start looking for a more supportive environment / corporate culture. One that provides recognition for your contributions… It gets more complicated when it’s a marriage though.

    You are also very good at knowing your strengths and letting people know you are confident in your abilities – you are also very good at staying positive and encouraging others :).

    • You are also good at staying postitive. You motivate me on more than one thing. And if I have somthing I do well you are one of the first people I tell because I know you will smile and tell me I did a good job and even offer help on how I could do it the next time that might cut time or add something to it that jazzes it up… If it wasn’t for you my blog would just me rambling still lol… ;)

  4. I am not afraid to self-promote. I posted something on facebook the other day about my accomplishments and someone raised an eyebrow, if this was a guy, you can bet the long list of commenters that would pat him in the back with comments like “Bravo” but its not thesame for women. We are meant to be modest and nice. I for one love to self-promote about what I bring to the table. I later updated my status with a Mohammed Ali’s quote – “Its not bragging if you can back it up”. Self promoting is necessary when you are in contact with someone higher up in the company, interviewing for a job, reviewing your performance plan with your boss, any meeting that seem to require that you prove your credibility. So it seems that women need to practice self-promoting more often than we think.

    • I agree Blessing – there are definitely still different expectations for women’s behavior than men’s. I am glad you are providing a good example to those around you of effectively showing your strengths and confidence without alienating your coworkers. We need more examples to look up to like you.

  5. I love this article. Self promotion is something I have struggled with both in the corporate world and in my own separate business. Working in an office full of women it can definitely be hard to tout your accomplishments without having someone question your need for approval.
    I think I am going to start trying to tell myself the things I tell my kids “Be proud of your accomplishments, don’t be afraid to show people who you are and what you are capable of.” Thanks for the thought provoking!

  6. I think it is how we are raised, societal expectations and that there seems to be a too fine line between not self promoting and being assertive and being thought of as a bitch. Sometimes it feels like there is no way to win.

    • Agreed Catherine. That line is very fine for women between being self confident and a bitch. I wonder what we can do to shift it? I think it is shifting, albeit slowly, in younger generations, but ours is still the guinea pig group of successful women. It’s an interesting time to be living, for sure! Thank you for commenting. :)

  7. I think we’re taught from an early age that you don’t want to boast or make yourself sound better than everybody else. While it’s ok to pat yourself on the back there’s a humble way to do so, which is what parents need to instill in children and what adults need to remember.

Leave a reply

Visit Us On TwitterVisit Us On FacebookVisit Us On PinterestVisit Us On Google Plus