Self-promotion stinks. That’s exactly what someone in my network said. She was referring to one of our mutual contacts being featured in a newspaper for their achievements. What I think she meant is that overt and excessive boasting and bragging can be annoying. Maybe even counterproductive. For business owners and leaders aiming to raise their profile and improve their professional reputation, however, some self-promotion is not only acceptable but essential. And yet, many women don’t promote themselves enough, or as well as, their male counterparts. Here are a few reasons why:
Confidence. Or lack thereof, to be more precise. It’s been written about, talked about and argued about, and yet, many women still lack the confidence to speak about their strengths and achievements. There are various reasons why women don’t always have enough confidence. Firstly, they don’t have as many role models in senior, prominent or public roles, so women are not confident about their aspirations or goals or even how to talk about themselves publicly. This is changing but there is still a long way to go, and even further for women of colour, disabled women, LGBTQ+ women…
Another key reason why women tend to have less confidence to promote themselves is shown right at the top of this article. Negative feedback can knock anyone’s fragile self-confidence, especially if they are just starting to share their story, products and services. We need to be much more supportive to all business owners and leaders who take risks and put themselves out there.
Conditioning. For many generations, women had a background or support role in the family unit and workplace (if they even worked). It’s only relatively recently that women have held prominent senior positions and have started millions of businesses. Many still feel pressure to or choose to stay in the background and ensure the house and family are their main priority. There is often an expectation that the woman’s career should take a back seat to the men, and there are practical considerations when women take time off to look after children.
Women are also conditioned not to boast or brag, as it is not seen as a feminine thing to do. This belief has been passed down for centuries and is not even a conscious thought for many women. I have seen a group of women asked to talk about themselves ‘ to a room full of other women ‘ and they exhibited shyness, coquettishness and even shrinking, apologetic body language. And this was in a safe space!
Confusion. Because it is not as natural for women to promote themselves and their products and services, it can be confusing to find the right way to do it. Should you behave like a man, since men have (seemingly) had more success in the past? There are many proven methods of marketing and promotion that could be called ‘masculine’. Should you adopt those methods and behaviours and promote aggressively? Or should you be feminine and talk about yourself in a softer and more emotional way? It’s probably something in between, and it definitely depends on the situation, the environment and the person. You should do what feels natural for you and possibly engage a branding professional or marketing consultant. Just get in touch if you need a recommendation.
Choosing not to. This is my favourite reason because it is empowering. Just because you are not out there shouting about yourself and your business, does not mean that you are not achieving great things. I know hundreds of high-achieving business owners and leaders who are not very active on social media or doing much speaking or writing. They do business in a different way, the old-fashioned way, with a personal touch. Women tend to enjoy chatting, possibly more than men do but I can’t prove that. What I do know is the grapevine is real and women often talk about and refer women (and men) they know and trust. It could be just a coincidence that the first part of the word ‘women’ is ‘wom’ an acronym for ‘word of mouth’ but maybe not…
There are probably even more reasons why women don’t always self-promote enough or well enough. Let’s aim to get better at these four areas, and then look to add some more. There is also a great opportunity to promote other women. If you know a woman who is bucking the trend and doing a nice balanced job of promoting herself, please share her posts and talk about her. Then self-promotion will turn into simply promotion, which is helpful and useful for all of us.