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How to Effectively Self-Promote (As a Woman)

Ask a man to explain his success and he’ll point to his innate qualities and skill. But ask a woman and she’ll attribute it to things like “hard work,” “help from others,” or “luck.” A product of centuries spent denying women credit for their achievements, women are often hesitant to talk about their achievements and even lowball their expertise relative to men. It’s for good reason: the research shows we don’t like women who boast, and so when we do do it, we’re often penalized. But there are ways to effectively self-promote, even if you’re up against a sexist double standard. Here are 5 ways to get the acknowledgment you deserve – while not getting any shade in the process.

1. State Facts Not Opinions

It’s a lot harder to accuse someone—or perceive someone—as bragging when they’re stating something that is indisputable. That is: facts. What does that mean? Allow us to explain:

GOOD: “I programmed 79,387 lines of code this month”

BAD: “I’m a really good programmer.”  

2. Drop the “Grateful” Cred                                                              

You know this kind of credit: it’s when we say we’re “grateful” for all the help we had… from our team, our mentors, our bosses, our therapists, or anyone else who might deserve an iota of thanks, instead of simply accepting credit. Women alreadygive away more creditthan is necessary—or even true—to their colleagues (“I couldn’t have done it without Sam!”), in some instances even pointing to their own negative qualities in order to detect. The first step in not letting others take credit for your work is not giving it away. Don’t give out credit like it’s candy.

3. Take Credit Where It’s Due

Make sure your contribution is known when working on team projects—especially if there are men on your team. Research has found that while women are given roughly equal credit for work they perform alone or with other women, when they work with men they are at a disadvantage—because the men receive the default credit for the team’s work.

4. Say ‘Thank You’ 

Employ the following radical yet simple act of self-care: saying “Thank you” next time somebody compliments you on your work.

BOSS: Great work on your presentation today!

YOU: Thanks! But it was really all Harold.                             

BOSS: Nice work on that proposal; I know a lot went into it.                                                                                

YOU: Thank you. It was really no big deal. (May add: I worked really hard on it.)                 

COWORKER: Congrats on the promotion.

YOU: Thanks. I got really lucky.

5. Find a Boast Bitch!

She’s your female hype man. She boasts for you, you boast for her, boasting for each other makes you both look better, yet neither of you is perceived as bragging about yourself. And no, we’re not making this up: research shows that having someone boast on your behalf is effective even if it’s clear that person is biased (like your mom). And if you’re in the boasting position? That’s great, too. It makes you look like a team player. Plus, isn’t it always easier to brag on someone else’s behalf, anyway?

This essay was adapted from Feminist Fight Club: A Survival Manual for a Sexist Workplace, by Jessica Bennett. Check it out in the Bumble Bee-Tique for more workplace tools and tips!