with Aliza Sherman
If you own a business - home-based or otherwise - this is the blog where you'll find practical tips and smart ideas about entrepreneurship. I've started and run 4 different businesses so "been there, done that." I'll also invite successful entrepreneurs to share their best advice with you.
To learn more about Aliza, check out her profile on Work It, Mom! and her website, www.mediaegg.com.
How good are you at tooting your own horn? I think that many women have a very hard promoting themselves and what they do. Sure, I’m making a big, blanket statement here, but correct me if I’m wrong. Tell me how YOU promote yourself on a regular basis?
I think women often have a hard time self-promoting because we - women - are expected to avoid drawing attention to ourselves. And when we do, it seems that other women are the most offended by this. I’ve had many women over the years label me a “Self Promoter,” their voices dripping with disdain. “Self Promoter” in their minds was synonymous with “Spotlight Hog” and “Egomaniac.” And when I refused to apologize when I tooted my own horn, I was called a “conceited bitch.”
As a society, we still are not comfortable with women in power. And when a woman is confident with that power and proud of her accomplishments, we’re ready to vilify her, to knock her down a few pegs, to “put her in her place.” Men, however, are comfortable flaunting their achievements at every turn, and most people don’t find that offensive in the least, even when it is done inappropriately or in the wrong forum.
Here are two things that triggered this post - incidents that happened in the last month.
1. The Apologizer. Today, I attended a luncheon of women in communications. The guest speaker was an accomplished writer who recently published a new book. At the lecturn, she began her speech with a “modest” statement downplaying her accomplishments. It was a subtle yet dismissive comment like “Oh, I can’t believe I did all those things in that introduction” in that “oh, little ol’ me, what could I possibly have to say that might interest you” sort of way.
I can’t remember her exact words, of course, but I was immediately struck by how she didn’t simply and gracefully thank the woman who introduced her and move into her speech. She had to do the obligatory “Female Compliment Duck.” I think many of us are guilty of this. When someone gives us a compliment, we brush it aside with an “It was nothing,” or a “Don’t mention it” comment, blush, then move on with the business at hand a little flustered.
Now I’m not accusing all women of this. And I’ll even admit to doing a variation of this behavior myself. I find myself diverting my eyes, lowering them in that demure, or “aw shucks” sort of way. I struggle to straighten up my stance, throw my shoulders back and smile graciously. Why are compliments so uncomfortable for us? Trust me, men do not have a problem basking in the glow of kudos.
2. The Resume Quoter. On the complete flip side, I had a phone conversation recently with a guy in my industry. We’d never met before and were discussing ways we might work together. I am not exaggerating when I say he spent half the conversation reciting his many accomplishments - I swear he had his resume in front of him and was just ticking off item by item, peppering the conversation with self-congratulatory statements such as “Well, I’ve had over 30 years experience in that area,” and “I’m sure I could give you some tips to improve your writing because of all of my experience.”
Finally, I was so incensed with the way the conversation was going that I called him on it.
“Why do you keep mentioning all of your accomplishments in this conversation? I keep getting the feeling that you are trying to intimidate me here,” I said.
“I’m just letting you know that I have many more years of experience than you do,” he retorted.
“Does it matter?” I shot back. “Are we here to flaunt our resumes or to find ways to work together?”
He settled down for a little while, but within about 10 minutes, he couldn’t resist throwing in some more resume gems.
“You’re doing it again,” I said.
“Well, you should know where I’m coming from,” he replied.
He could have emailed me his resume with better results. But he was completely unapologetic for his turbo-horn-tooting tactics. I left the phone conversation wondering if he was actually intimidated by me and just trying to level the playing field in his mind or was he really that much of an egomaniac.
And what if he had been female? I just can’t picture most women taking that aggressive tactic, can you?
I do hate drawing the gender lines too often. I know there are a lot of women out there who are comfortable with their accomplishments and not afraid to talk about them just as there are men who are very accomplished but self-deprecating at every turn or even genuinely modest. But put men and women in a room and be a fly on the wall. I’ll bet you anything that the men own their accomplishments and women defer them to others or downplay them.
What will it take to not only get women to feel good about promoting themselves but to also get society to embrace a successful and accomplished woman who doesn’t apologize for being great?
Subscribe to blog via RSS