What Is The Self-Promotion Gap? 6 Ways To Feel More Comfortable Celebrating Your Accomplishments
Women and non-binary folks are taught early on in their careers that the workplace is one of many places where they are treated unfairly. This is especially true when it comes to their pay, also known as the gender pay gap. In 2018, it was found that full-time year-round working women were making only 80 percent of what their male counterparts were earning, according to Pew Research. It's estimated that it would take 202 years to close the gender pay gap. You may have experienced the wage gap first-hand, but what you probably didn't know was that there's another, lesser-known gap that exists in the workplace that not only affects how much money women make, but also how far their career can advance — the self-promotion gap.
The “self-promotion gap” was penned when Mighty Forces, Southpaw Insights, Upstream Analysis, and Grey Horse Communications — all women-owned companies — conducted a survey to determine how women really felt about talking about their achievements. Amanda Hirsch, founder of Mighty Forces, and Sabrina McMillin, senior account manager at Grey Horse, tell Bustle that although the self-promotion gap was something they discussed, it wasn't something other people were really looking into. The idea came to them after working with other women in businesses and organizations and realizing how hesitant they were to talk about their accomplishments, McMillin says.
After trying to research why this was and realizing there was no research that studied this, they decided to conduct the studies themselves. And so, they surveyed more than 1,000 people (517 women and 499 men) ages 18 to 55+ and discovered that not only were women not talking about themselves at work, they weren’t doing it in their personal lives either.
Talking about yourself doesn't have to be uncomfortable, but it may take some practice at first. Here are six ways you can fix the self-promotion gap and learn to celebrate your accomplishments.
1. Talk About Your Work Life In Your Personal Life
You don't have to start spewing random information about your sale projections in the middle of a movie night, but one way to ease into talking about yourself with people at work is by doing it around people you are comfortable with first. According to the survey, only one in three white and Hispanic women are very comfortable talking about their accomplishments with friends or family members. But there's a way to change that.
“Make it more of part of the narrative that you share with other people informally," Hirsch says. "I say that because I think a way to build the muscle for greater impact." Plus, any good friend should want to know about and be proud of how you're killing it at work.
2. Don't Downplay Your Role Or Job
When people ask you what you do, it's unfair to yourself to say something like, "I'm just a lawyer," which is often the case as the survey shows that 69% of women would rather minimize their successes than tell people about them. When you downplay the answer, the way it translates psychologically is probably negative, Hirsch says. Underselling yourself and your work can have a really negative impact on your sense of self-worth, which can end up causing a lot of damage in the long-run. You can practice getting out of this habit by stating your full title and throwing in a few impressive details next time someone asks you what you do. Not only can this make you feel more confident about the importance of what you do, but it can also open the door for possible career growth, depending on who you're talking to.
3. Look At Sharing As Altruistic
Representation is important. When a woman talks about herself and her achievements, it helps other women want to do the same. So, next time you feel uncomfortable talking about how great you're doing, try to remember that you could be inspiring someone else. And the more women who become inspired to talk about themselves, the better.
"I started to salivate thinking about the power that could be unleashed if more of the older women really shared their accomplishments and their skills and their stories,” Hirsch says. “I just think it could really help tip the scales towards gender equality.”
4. Use Social Media To Your Advantage
Although using social media can negatively affect your mental health in some cases, it can also wield some positive results.
You can use LinkedIn to your benefit or showcase your work on Instagram. Social media is a great way of reaching big audiences, especially because you never know what potential employer or customer might be looking at your feed. “I think [social media is] just encouraging people to showcase their lives in a way that is probably positive in terms of career development," McMillin says.
5. Focus On Advancing In Your Career
It’s no secret that networking is crucial to the advancement of almost any career. And yet, the survey shows that about 77% of women can find something more pleasant than talking about themselves in a room full of strangers. This means that women are really missing out on potential opportunities to get ahead. "There is simply an opportunity cost to downplay your achievements and to not talking about your accomplishments," McMillin says. "So if you don't talk about your accomplishments, somebody else will be talking about their own in the competitive world out there.”
6. Encourage Other Women To Share Their Stories Too
When you encourage other women to speak up about their achievements and try to create an environment where women feel proud of what they've done, you create a network of empowered women that you, too, can learn from and be inspired by. According to the survey, 83% of women have been inspired in some capacity by other women talking about their accomplishments. As Hirsch says, “The more women's stories we have in the world, the more we create a world that's ready for women to lead in all areas of our lives."
The self-promotion gap, like the gender wage gap, is not going to go away overnight. But the more women speak up about their accomplishments and make room for others to do the same, the better chance there is at an evening of the playing field.