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Self Promotion for Women

  2. It Is NOT Your Fault  You are “bad at self-promotion” because you’ve been trained to be bad at it  We are socialized from a young age to be self-effacing  Women and girls receive negative feedback if we self- promote like the guys do… So we don’t do it Story from “Talking from 9 to 5” by Deborah Tannen Screenshot of letter from:,,20107010,00.html
  3. Implicit Bias and Getting Ahead  This is an example of implicit bias  Implicit biases are “baked into” our systems and culture  Both men and women have them, and women “enforce” cultural expectations for other women just as much as men do.  Can keep you from succeeding, while making you feel like it is your own fault!  In his book “The Hidden Brain,” Shankar Vedantam likens implicit bias to the ocean current: “Those who travel with the current will always feel they are good swimmers; those who swim against the current may never realize they are better swimmers than they imagine.” See What Works for Women at Work, by Joan Williams and Rachel Dempsey, for more on implicit biases
  4. Walking the Tightrope  Women are penalized for being “too masculine”  Self-promoting, aggressively negotiating in our own self- interest, etc.  “Doesn’t play well with others” “Difficult to work with”  Women are also penalized for being “too feminine”  Self-effacing, nurturing, etc.  Judged to be less competent than equally qualified men
  5. Women Aren’t All The Same  Because of racism, many people choose to leave volunteer work that links them to a specific race off of their resumes  This hides some valuable accomplishments and experience  Women of color report more issues with implicit bias than white women do, and report more openly disrespectful comments Cartoon by Liza Donnelly
  6. Women Aren’t All the Same  Some backgrounds emphasize humility more than others  Even if you can balance on the tightrope, it feels wrong to self- promote  Studies find more latitude for assertiveness in Black women… as long as it is in service of the group, not themselves.  Latinas report being assigned more “office housework” and having junior colleagues treat them like a mother  Viewed as caring, but not promotable  Asian-American women face the “model minority” stereotype  Seen as competent and hard-working, but not as leaders  Asian women often face particular challenges around assertiveness  When they are assertive, can trigger strong negative stereotypes From: What Works for Women at Work, by Joan Williams and Rachel Dempsey
  7. What to Do?  We need to self-promote  To get jobs  To get promotions and raises  To get the recognition we deserve  To have the impact we desire  So we need to find ways to do so effectively without triggering negative biases. The ideas in this presentation are given as ideas for navigating the existing bias, not as prescriptions for what women “should” do. In the world we “should” be living in, women could do whatever was natural and be judged in the same way as men are!
  8. The Passive Method  Let the facts be known, and let them speak for themselves  Ideas for using this method  Display awards  If you’re out of office to be on a study section, or get an award- put the reason on your calendar  Make your resume available  Add detail to your LinkedIn page  Consider a professional blog
  9. The Buddy System  Form a group of friends/colleagues who promote each other  Ideas for using this method  Team up in meetings to call attention to misattribution of ideas  If you choose to use social media in professional capacity, find group to cross-promote each others’ work  Make sure your friends and family know what you do!
  10. Just the Facts, Ma’am  Find ways to present the facts about your achievements when it will be seen as an “update,” not “self-promotion”  Ideas for using this method  Get in the habit of providing your boss with regular updates. (Check for their preferred method!)  Keep an accomplishments folder so that you have the facts on hand at review time  Don’t lead with your accomplishments. Let them come out over the course of conversation
  11. Use Networking  A little bit of self-promotion is expected at networking events- i.e., your elevator speech  Since it is expected, you can do it without triggering the negative bias  Helpful for more than just job searches! Your external reputation will influence internal promotion decisions, too.  Ideas for using this method  Attend networking events when you can  To network without feeling smarmy: look for ways to help the other person
  12. Balance Harder  You can “get away” with more masculine coded behavior if it is balanced with more feminine coded behavior  Ideas for using this method  Adopt a “social” speaking style when talking about your own accomplishments  Friendly face, less assertive tone of voice, moderate hand gestures  i.e., play up “likeability”  Pair discussion of accomplishments with more feminine coded topics (e.g., asking about the other person)  Make primary focus the team, instead of yourself
  13. Build Your Toolkit  Don’t hide your accomplishments from yourself!  Know what you’re good at  What’s your “value proposition”?  Learn what sort of networking works for you  Some people prefer big groups, some prefer 1:1
  14. Get Past the “Icky” Feeling  Networking and self-promotion are essential for your career.  Assertiveness is more accepted in women when it is in support of others… you may feel more comfortable with it in this context, too  Networking: focus on how you can help  Self-promotion: focus on the good your work does  Practice away the awkwardness  Practice your “pitch”  Find “friendly” networking events to start at
  15. Closing Thoughts: We Are Not Broken  Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic’s research indicates that society over-rewards confidence and under-rewards competence  What we really need is competence, but we tend to hire and promote on confidence  The power of humility: people who are seen to be more competent than they think they are garner more respect and get more done  Work to find ways to succeed in the world as it is, but take heart from the idea that if the world changed to be more like us, it might be a better place!
  16. Questions?
  17. Finding Me Later  Website:  I write about management of projects and people, with a science and technology focus.  On Twitter: @melanie_nelson  I tweet about the same things. Plus cute animal pictures.  Upcoming online class: Get More Done- learn the fundamentals of project management so that you can get more done.  Registration closes June 5. There are <5 seats left.  course/
  18. References and Resources  What Works for Women at Work, by Joan C. Williams and Rachel Dempsey  Shifting: The Double Lives of Black Women in America, by Charisse Jones and Kumea Shorter-Gooden  Talking from 9 to 5, by Deborah Tannen  Women and the Labyrinth of Leadership, by Alice Eagly and Linda Carli:  Dr. Chamorro-Premuzic on confidence vs. competence:  “Hidden” leadership experiences of people of color: strengths-of-minority-executives/ar/1  Review of Shankar Vedantam’s The Hidden Brain: vedantam/