By Shelley Zalis
Photo Courtesy of The Female Quotient
A middle manager at one of our recent Girls’ Lounges told me about a meeting she was in where her colleagues were reviewing account performances. She couldn’t help but notice the difference between the way the men and the women shared their thoughts. In general, she observed that the men tended to be more likely to use the pronoun I, such as, “I delivered” or, “I grew the client relationship.” By comparison, the females were more inclined to say “we” or “my team.”
Her observations aligned with previous studies that reveal women, in general, are not comfortable with self-promotion. In fact, women may be apt to give their teams recognition more than themselves. Giving your team credit is, of course, important, and essential for creating a culture of collaboration. However, it’s also important to acknowledge the unique strengths you bring to the table.
Women’s general tendency to shy away from self-promotion for fear they’ll sound like they’re bragging is a key barrier for advancement. It’s critical to make your higher-ups aware of all the amazing things you bring to the table to rise to leadership.
I don’t believe that women’s tendency to shy away from talking about their strengths and highlighting their successes is as much about a lack of faith in their abilities as it is about the unconscious pressure they may feel from prevailing stereotypes. For example, we may perceive a man who gives himself accolades as being confident, but a woman who does the same may come across as boasting.
These unconscious biases are real: Women negotiating a promotion are 30% more likely than a man to receive feedback that they are “bossy,” “too aggressive” or “intimidating,” according to a Women in the Workplace report.
One of my favorite quotes for flipping these stereotypes is from Sheryl Sandberg as she says we should tell girls who are called bossy, “You’re not bossy, you have executive leadership skills.” We need to bring more traditionally feminine qualities to the workplace. Here are three ways to leverage these qualities to promote yourself at work.
1. Make your talents visible.
Discover your strengths, own your strengths and find others that compliment your strengths for a total package. Keeping your head down and working hard won’t fast track you to a leadership position. Instead, you have to be seen for your talents and accomplishments in order to get promoted. One way to do this is to practice speaking up in meetings every time and contributing ideas in areas where you excel, such as strategic planning. Come prepared with something to say that will drive the conversation forward.
If you’re an introvert, you might shine more by, say, contributing to the company newsletter. Or you might work on establishing yourself as a thought leader by regularly writing articles related to your expertise on LinkedIn, and sharing the best of them with your boss.
If building relationships is your strength, you may want to volunteer at a company event where you’ll get face time with power players to create an opportunity you might not have had otherwise.
2. Phone a friend.
Let’s say you’ve built a solid relationship with a co-worker and you have a history of having each other’s backs. You might strategically solicit her to showcase your work or give you a shout out. For example, before a social media strategy meeting that your co-worker is leading, you could alert her that you’ve helped increase a client’s Instagram followers by 20% so that she can share your win with the team. In return, you would amplify her successes. Amplifying each other’s wins takes the pressure off you while giving greater visibility to your achievements.
3. Own it.
I often hear women downplaying compliments they receive by saying something such as, “Oh it was nothing.” Rather than discount your contributions, practice accepting compliments, and then taking it one step further by building upon on it. You might say, “Thank you. It was hard work and I’m thrilled I won the account.” It’s like wearing a pair of high heels for the first time: They might pinch when you put them on, but they get more comfortable the more you wear them.
Always remember, there is only one you and confidence is beautiful.
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This content was originally published by Forbes Magazine. Original publishers retain all rights. It appears here for a limited time before automated archiving. By Forbes Magazine