Self-promotion: The Missing Piece of the Puzzle for Future Female Leaders

Having delivered a number of Google’s #IamRemarkable workshops, where all but one of the participants were female, I have seen first-hand that many women still find it challenging to talk openly about their achievements.

But why do so many of us struggle with this? And why don’t we realise that there is direct link between self-promotion and success, both at work and in personal life?

Research shows that imposter syndrome – the feeling that you have reached where you are by luck rather than ability – plus cultural and modesty norms have something to do with it. After all, girls are conditioned from a young age to “not be too bossy”.

Demonstrating our personal contribution is more critical than ever before, especially if we are eyeing up that C-suite position or want to advance our career.

So, how can we improve our self-promotion skills? And how do we challenge the social perceptions around it?

  1. Self-promotion is the key to success.

Just as you would go to the gym to work on your abs, you need to start flexing your self-promotion muscle too. It will take some time and practice – you may well have to fight your inner critics along the way – so be patient.
Spot any opportunity to raise your hand, mention your input, demonstrate your value and self-advocate.

Remember: it’s not bragging if it’s based on facts.

2. Accomplishments do not speak for themselves.
Hard work is at the heart of success, but on its own it is not enough. Keeping a low profile and assuming that others will recognise how much you have contributed to a particular project is a mistake. There is nothing negative – or arrogant for that matter – about advocating for yourself. Women tend to have an instinctively nurturing nature and that often leads us to promote others and their efforts. Yet we neglect to do the same for ourselves. With practice, soon enough you will find your own voice. And with time, it will become more natural and authentic to speak up.

What’s the pay-off? You will get noticed, build a reputation as a go-to person in your field and may inspire others to follow your lead.

3. Practice, practice, practice
Whenever you reach a goal or significant milestone – at work or in your personal life – write it down. Then, practice saying it out loud until it rolls off your tongue easily. It might feel awkward to begin with (verbalising our success often does) but again, if you want to “have a seat at the table”, you have to persist with self-advocacy and self-promotion.

4. Keep a record of your achievements

I call it my personal “feel-good file”. On a day when things do not go so well, looking at the list will act as a pick-me-up and get me back on track.

Many women have their elevator pitch, but find that it doesn’t take them all the way to the top. Building the self-promotion muscle is a one-step-a-time process that will help women claim one seat at a time at boardroom level.