Why Women Don’t Self-Promote at Work as Often as Men
In Honor of Women’s History Month, We’re Taking a Look at Women in the Workplace
If you are a woman who recently met with your broker (or corporate) for a year-end review and didn’t share all of your successes and the ways you shined over the last year, you aren’t alone. Being visible and owning well done work continues to be a conundrum for women in the workplace.
Arecent study in the Harvard Business Review revealed that regardless of the situation, women do not promote themselves in the workplace as much as their male colleagues.
“As researchers interested in gender gaps in earnings, negotiations, and firm leadership, we wondered whether gender differences in self-promotion also exist and might contribute to those gaps,” said Christine Exley, an assistant professor of business administration at Harvard Business School, and Judd Kessler, an associate professor at Wharton.
“We found a large gender gap in self-promotion—with men rating their performance 33% higher than equally performing women.”
Limiting Your Earning Potential
As many raises and promotions to higher level roles are dependent upon an employee’s self-evaluation, women are more at risk of missing out on getting hired or higher earning opportunities. In real estate, this quality limits earning potential and can have rippling long-term effects.
The pair considered multiple hypotheses from whether women were less confident and men more, to whether it was a matter of taking advantage of systems where self-promotion leads to incentives, to whether a boss would eventually find out the truth about a worker’s ability.
“In every setting we explored, we observed a substantial gender gap in self-promotion: Women systematically provided less favorable assessments of their own past performance and potential future ability than equally performing men. And our various study versions revealed that this gender gap was not driven by confidence or by strategic incentives, and that it was robust both in the face of ambiguity and under increased transparency,” the pair stated.
Men Face Less Criticism
What could be at play? If women are punished for excessive self-promotion in the workplace more than men, they are more likely to keep their successes to themselves, the researchers speculate. Prior research into self-promotion in the workplace found that excessive self-promotion suggested gender differences in backlash.
As if we were still living in the 1950s, women often face backlash for being too vocal about their abilities, and risk losing out on promotions because being visible and self-promotional goes against the idea of how a woman should behave. So, while being visible and taking ownership is the way to get ahead in the workplace, for many women the risk of backlash means they sit and remain quiet, being passed over because they fear being labeled “a bitch,” as the study found.
What Exley and Judd determined is there is the need for more research into the “why” of this conundrum.
Meanwhile, the message is this: Employers (and brokers), don’t overlook women on your team. They may not be as vocal about how good they are, but that doesn’t mean their performance is inferior.
And to women out their hustling and closing deals – take note of your accomplishments and promote your worth when in the field and in the office!