Cultural and gender norms expect women to be modest, pleasant, and empathetic. Society tells us to be a woman is to be selfless and caring.
Research shows that our socialization to place communal goals above our individual needs contributes to us falling behind in our careers. In the workplace and in business, modesty norms and an unwillingness to promote our achievements or skills make us invisible to those who give promotions or have open opportunities.
The result is frustration as we fall behind in the race for promotions and raises and our businesses fail to thrive. Many of us don’t realize that it’s not just external biases that hold us back. Our internalized belief systems make the situation worse
Internal Beliefs Holding Us Back
We’re raised to trust that good behavior will be rewarded. We politely wait and assume that our superiors will know when we’re ready for promotion. We trust them to keep track of our progress rather than ask what we want.
We humbly decline praise for our accomplishments because we don’t want to seem too conceited. Instead, we talk about what everyone else has accomplished and downplay our worth and achievements.
We think we need to know every little detail about the job we’re going for. We focus on knowledge instead of networks.
We’re busy acquiring as much expertise as possible, forgetting to build a strong network of allies to support us.
We want people to feel that we value them for themselves. We don’t want them to think we’re taking advantage of them, so we hesitate to use relationships to our advantage.
We don’t self-promote because we’ve been taught not to brag and because we’re afraid of possible backlash if we do. We hope our accomplishments and work ethic speak for themselves, so we don’t talk about them.
How This Impacts Our Careers
These internalized habits have a negative impact on our professional success:
Our supervisors don’t know about our interest in taking the next step up the career ladder. Potential clients aren’t aware of the goods or skills we have to offer.
We lack the network to support us. We hear about opportunities too late and our names aren’t mentioned by those who know them. We have no one to turn to for support.
We quickly fall behind our self-promoting (male) peers. We watch as men who started their career or their businesses at the same time as us inexplicably pull ahead.
We make less money than men with the same qualifications. We ask for less money for our services or when we’re hired.
We get frustrated, close our businesses, feel unappreciated, and leave in hopes that another company will appreciate our contributions more, only to repeat the same cycle.
4 Strategies to Accelerate Your Success
To get out of this cycle and move up, we need to address the behaviors that are limiting us.
We need to leave behind our deeply held beliefs about appropriate behavior and the underlying assumptions we have about how we should present ourselves.
Understanding that talking about your goals and accomplishments isn’t bragging is the first step to getting ahead.
Learning how to talk about your achievements is the first big step up the career ladder or towards a successful business. No one will know or care what you have to offer if you don’t talk about it.
I warmly recommend attending an #IamRemarkable workshop and/or finding a coach to help you practice this fundamental skill
Instead of focussing solely on impressing everyone with the depth of your expertise, network! Find supporters, peers and allies that can help you expand your knowledge and open doors to opportunity.
Reflect on the fact that you would always be ready to help someone else if you feel uneasy about asking for a favor.
Think of all the ways you’d be able to give favors in return – you have a lot to give and therefore can freely accept as well.
Speak openly about your aspirations, there is no shame in wanting to achieve something.
If you observe the way men talk about their career plans, you will quickly learn that this is necessary to position yourself as a potential candidate for the next open opportunity.
Don’t self-reject – we tend to say no to ourselves when an opportunity arises without even asking to be considered.
Never assume you’re not eligible or not a good fit, you’ll be surprised how often your self-perception is wrong.
Start practicing self-promotion, networking and sharing your aspirations in a safe setting with a coach, friends or in an #IamRemarkable workshop. These skills need to be honed and practiced like any other habit.
Despite all the external factors holding us back, we are the captains of our destiny. We need to learn to take the rudder and steer instead of waiting for someone to guide us.