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.
by guest blogger Maia Nolan
In a recent post at Brazen Careerist, writer Nisha Chittal opined that women aren’t as good at self-promotion as men are, for a variety of reasons. We asked Nisha to share some of her insight into why women have a harder time tooting their own horns — and, since self-promotion and entrepreneurship go hand-in-hand, how we can get over it.
So — what’s our problem? And why is it a problem?
In my experience, I have witnessed that women, much more so than men, are afraid to speak of their accomplishments and successes and goals. Men, I have often seen, are more aggressive in going after what they want, asking for help, talking up their accomplishments, and generally tooting their own horn. Women don’t want to seem as though they are bragging, or that they’re arrogant or self-absorbed. It’s a problem because in order to become successful today almost everyone needs to do a little self-promotion. And if women are feeling shy about talking up their achievements, then they’re holding themselves back from reaching their goals. There are fewer women executives, for instance. And one well-known Carnegie Mellon study also showed that women are far less likely to negotiate a higher salary than men — and thus, can cost themselves thousands of dollars in lost income over time.
Many studies also point to the idea that women are more focused on community, relationships, and team-building, rather than on their individual successes, whereas men may often make their individual goals a higher priority than group or company goals. Women are often uncomfortable with negotiating or asking for what they want.
When you say “self-promotion,” what do you mean? What kinds of things should women entrepreneurs be doing to put themselves out there?
I definitely don’t mean bragging, but I mean being proud of your accomplishments and your ambitions, and being confident enough to share them with other people. If you’re striving to achieve a goal or climb the corporate ladder or whatever, part of it is about doing high-quality work, but another part of it is also about making your work known to others. You could be a blogger who is a beautiful writer, but if no one knows about your blog and you only have two readers, something is missing.
It’s important to share with people your work, the things you have accomplished, and the things you’re trying to accomplish — you never know who might be able to help you out if you’re too scared to put yourself out there. It’s also about simply being confident enough to go after whatever your goals are, rather than listening to critics (including your inner critic).
You pointed out in your post that women are often criticized for being ambitious, while men are praised (your example was now-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton). Where does this come from? Do you think this is something that’s changed or changing? What can we as women do to combat this negative attitude toward ambitious women?
Despite the conventional wisdom that feminism has made tremendous progress in recent years, it is still unfortunately true that open ambition is often viewed as a negative trait in women. I cited Hillary Clinton as an example because one of the most common attacks hurled at Hillary Clinton during the 2008 presidential campaign was that she was “too ambitious.” I’d venture a guess that anyone who wants to become President of the United States is very ambitious, and Barack Obama is no exception. However, I have never once seen Obama criticized during the campaign as being “too ambitious” simply because he was running for President. Hillary, however, dealt with that insult nearly every day on the campaign trail. In fact, some people even called ambition Hillary Clinton’s greatest flaw. In fact, recently some have even started to criticize first Lady Michelle Obama for being too ambitious.
I don’t think this fear of ambitious women is anything new; but I think we have seen a lot of particularly ambitious women in public life lately who have been subjected to this kind of treatment. And it is imperative to combat this negative attitude towards women. A great book I recommend everyone read is Ambition is Not a Dirty Word, by Dr. Debra Condren. In her book, Condren talks about how women are often led to feel guilty for being ambitious, but instead, they should embrace their ambitions. Condren’s book is an excellent manual for how to achieve your goals and stop the cycle of self-doubt and self-sabotage, and to learn to self-promote without compromising your integrity.
What’s the most intimidating or scary thing you’ve done in the name of self-promotion? Did it pay off?
Honestly, the scariest thing I did was start my personal website (nishachittal.com). I was starting a website that prominently featured my name and says “This is what I have done.” I feel like for many women, to have the self-assurance to make such a move is a big step. I mean, it takes guts to feel that your work is good enough for you to put yourself out there. There’s lots of women doing fantastic work who are just afraid to promote their work. For a lot of people this seems fairly simple, but at the time it was a big step for me. Now, I’m definitely glad I got over my timidity there. The key thing for me was that taking that first step was the hardest step, but after that it gradually became easier.
What can we do to conquer our timidity when it comes to self-promotion? Is there a way to wade in to self-promotion, or is it better to take the cannonball approach?
I’m not an expert on this topic, so I don’t have all the answers — but really, does anyone? I think it’s definitely easier to wade in step-by-step — that’s definitely what I did as I began writing and blogging. Start small. Don’t let your inner critic get to you — I think women do that a lot; they hesitate because they think they will come off as arrogant. But you can be proud of yourself and be confident and promote your work, without being arrogant about it — you just have to stop listening to that inner critic.
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