Women Must Self Promote!

By Zizipho Ndevu

When faced with huge amounts of success or with the ability to do something exceptionally well, studies have proved that men are more likely to share this kind of information with others than women are. Research shows that women struggle to not only initiate conversations about their success but when asked about the accomplishments they hold back and downplay their level of success or expertise.  

Maybe you are reading this article and feel that this is not at all your story, which is also okay but for most women promoting their worth and leading the conversation of why they are valuable and what they can contribute is often a difficult task. 

It was only a week or so ago that I was faced with the same situation and sat for 20 minutes wondering if I shared news about a significant sale I had made it would be perceived as arrogant or a genuine win for not just me but for my team and by extension my employer.

 I read the email about my delightful news over and over until I accepted the fact that a lot of the time it is not that people in senior positions don’t want to hear about your success, it is just that they are too busy to hear about it organically so they will never or very seldom hear about your wins via the grapevines, this means that if you don’t share your wins the chances are that no one will actually hear of them. That it is my responsibility to share and make known the value that I add. 

After convincing myself I finally pressed send and off the email went to one of the more prominent Senior Partners who then looped in other Partners and key managers in various departments to join in on my success. Absolutely humbled by his enthusiasm, I realised that this would have never happened if I didn’t send that email and that next time I would not argue with myself 1000 times over but just send it! Not wasting my time caring if I will be seen as bossy, sassy or any other negative word that is usually used to describe a woman who has big goals and dreams.

I then started to think about why it is that woman actually struggle with self-promotion? The truth of the matter is that in its purest form self-promotion is literally just sharing something you are proud of and if done with this pure intention why is it that women don’t do it or find it inappropriate? I for one think that it goes all the way back to how women are taught about what it means to be a ‘true’ woman. As little girls, when we were taught about our bodies the words ‘private parts’ was used, and often we are told to hide what makes us women, that it is unattractive to talk about our anatomy in public or the wonderful things that come with being a woman like puberty, pregnancy, childbirth, and life after childbirth and from time to time a period you swear was sent from Hell.

Moreover, when a woman goes through a problem with her partner or is under a severe amount of stress we are often told that we must not hang our laundry out in the public for all to see and that if there is a problem we are to handle it quietly in a manner that won’t bring us embarrassment or shame. When we are taught to conduct ourselves in public we are told to keep our legs closed, to never laugh too loud or raise our voices, girls are taught to play with toys that don’t defile their ‘ladylike’ image instead of having endless fun in the dirt like their brothers or cousins. This is a life of endless lessons on how we should somewhat be less than who we really are. We are told to be who we are but not too much. 

Now fast-forward a few years, that same girl, now a grown woman is trying to build a business, climb that corporate ladder or applying for that dream job she is faced with her male counterparts who have had the exact opposite lessons growing up. They are told and encouraged to boldly and freely be boys, they easily talk about everything from their genitals to their cars, work success, their personal unique selling points, their needs and what pleasures them. Men have generally been raised in a society that encourages them to talk about themselves and often the concern of arrogance doesn’t go alongside that discussion, it doesn’t even occur to them that what they are doing indeed may be perceived as arrogance or self-centred. 

Woman, on the other hand, are constantly not just thinking about what they want to say but how what they say will be heard and received by other people. We can’t put the expectation on our girls to automatically switch to self-promoters if every other area in their lives is taught to be private or a secret. 

As women, we need to take it upon ourselves to rethink the way we teach our girls to be women and indeed the expectations we place on other women around us. That when another woman around you shares her success to not shame her for it because in her doing that we too will gain the confidence to do the same. 

The reality is that we will be overlooked and forgotten about if we do not own our stories, successes, and our dreams. If we don’t freely discuss what makes us uniquely valuable to every client meeting, boardroom discussion, sales pitch, and public office position, unfortunately, no one else will. We are the best people to tell our stories and share what makes us great. 

Zizipho Ndevu
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