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Do you brag at work? If not, it’s your loss.

Categories: Career Talk


One day when I have a bit of extra cash lying around I am going to commission a study about all the things women are doing right at work. For now, we have yet another bit of research to suggest that we’re sometimes our own enemies when it comes to breaking the glass ceiling.

The study, which has now been published in a book called The Psychology of Sales Reluctance, was conducted by Shannon Goodson, a behavioral scientist who compared 11,000 professional women with 16,000 professional men from 34 countries. Goodson found that women are significantly less likely than men to tout their achievements and contributions at work and believe that self-promotion is “socially unacceptable”, “unlady-like” and “morally suspect”.

“They believe hard work alone is sufficient to put them on salary and status par with their male counterparts… Good work is important, but good work alone does not, as the myth says, speak for itself, you have to give it a voice.”

This isn’t quite news because other studies have shown that women don’t negotiate as often and as well as men for raises, which is one contributing factor to why women still make less for doing the same job. Neither is there an obvious answer here, because we have to walk the finest of lines at work, appearing assertive, but not too much, as to not be labeled bitchy, and being compassionate, but not too much, as to not be labeled soft. Show me a man who has to deal with these many fine lines and parameters in his career (while, let’s not forget, taking care of kids and chores) and I’ll give him a medal.

So what’s a woman to do? How do we not short-change ourselves from getting what we deserve without alienating our bosses and colleagues who are holding us to a ridiculous double standard?

I don’t have a good answer, so let me know what YOU think.

P.S. And I couldn’t resist using this image for this post because succeeding as a woman at work sometimes feels like climbing up a metal ladder in high heels.

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5 comments so far...

  • This is definitely true - the most competent women rarely advertise their achievements.

    I would hesitate to blame it on our upbringing. I feel that with gender comes certain behavioral tendencies, maybe because this is what was best for the species over time. I can think of some reasons why it would have been best in the cave man days, but that’s not the point. The question is, what do we do about it?

    I have a daughter who is my identical twin, and I have to figure out what to say to her, how to model for her, so that when she is in the corporate world (if that’s what she aspires to), she won’t be trampled underfoot. How can I encourage her to be openly proud of herself while at the same time being inwardly proud of the way God made her?

    Women don’t have to do it the same way men do. We women feel uncomfortable singing our own praises, so why not sing each other’s praises instead? Let’s make a pact and teach all the new female hires to give credit to another woman whenever an opportunity arises. Also, let’s sing the praises of the groups we lead. Just insert the word “we” where guys say “I.” We should also practice advertising “the company’s” achievements in such a way that we clearly, but not obnoxiously, take credit for these successes. When I say practice, I mean actually set up case studies and have seminars where women practice these skills until they become more hard-wired. There is nothing obnoxious about making sure the boss knows who was behind a success. If anything, it’s a disservice to the company to keep quiet and let them believe the loud, incompetent jerk in the next cubicle deserves the credit.

    I also feel that women are not necessarily motivated in the same way men are. I might be more concerned about having flexible work hours and working mostly at home, versus making more money. Yes, it bugs me if I’m making a lot less than someone who contributes less than I do, but I don’t mind it so much if it’s a competent man who hops on a plane at 6am every other day. It’s important for us to always look at the big picture when we consider whether we are being treated fairly.

    SKL  |  August 26th, 2008 at 11:46 am

  • I think it’s really true that woman don’t toot their own horns at work.

    They aren’t socialized to do that — and if they do, sometimes it is seen as bragging rather than pointing out their worth.

    I think this is a big issue for women.

    I know I will always point out when something is someone else’s great idea or give other’s credit but rarely myself. And no one else does it for you. (In fact, if I had a dollar for every time a man has suggested something you just suggested and claimed it as his own … )

    But I don’t have a solution either. Hope someone does.

    bloggingmom67  |  August 26th, 2008 at 3:10 pm

  • When you find out the answer to this double standard, please tell Hillary Clinton. I am still mourning the failure of her candidacy.

    Daisy  |  August 27th, 2008 at 10:57 pm

  • I have seen some women brag very effectively in the workplace. The trick appears to be these women praise their teams as a way to draw attention to their accomplishments as team leader.

    Work/Life Balancing Act  |  September 3rd, 2008 at 11:10 am

  • [...] — at work not because we don’t work hard enough but because we don’t ask enough, promote ourselves enough, and negotiate well enough. It took me a LONG time to understand this and in the process I put in [...]

    Bad career advice: My three least favorite bits - Work It, Mom! Blog - Work It, Mom!  |  September 15th, 2008 at 8:31 am