I recently read an article in the Harvard Business Review and was curious to gain some much needed advice on how to advance in the workplace. The Ambition and Gender at Work study conducted by Europe’s Institute of Leadership & Management concluded women have lower confidence in the workplace compared to their male coworkers. The study also indicated women in management positions are more likely to doubt their performance and are hesitant to seek out promotions.
The study identifies four ways in which women create barriers to their own success:
1. Being overly modest.
2. Not asking.
3. Blending in.
4. Remaining silent.
The article indicates that men are more likely to speak about their accomplishments more openly than women. I was speaking with a colleague about seeking promotions and he asked me was I self-promoting within the office. For a moment I had to think about the last time I consciously sought out opportunities to brag about myself. Sometimes I feel I’m so involved at work, how could anyone not realize this level of involvement. However, the article states your boss and colleagues will not know what you are capable of if you do not tell them. But we don’t want to play the martyr, now do we?
I had a supervisor that used to say, “You don’t ask, you don’t get.” The article states that some women are passed up for promotions because they do not ask for the promotion. When we job search we are told to “ask,” for the job, so it makes sense to “ask,” for the promotion. Asking for a raise or promotion will accomplish two things: 1. You will have communicated your interest and intentions the organization; and 2. Their reaction to your request will determine where you stand with the organization. Ah, but we do this for the students; it’s not about the money or the prestige.
According to the article some women would prefer to blend in and remain silent rather than stand out in meetings or at events. Blending in hinders anyone’s chances to leave a positive impression on a supervisor or colleague. I can recall times that I have sat in meetings silent because I thought what I had to contribute was not important, but I also can recall times when I have spoken from experience on a topic and inherited a project and a committee to assist. But why would the Vice President want my opinion about alternative approaches to student programming?
I realize this study grazes the subject of gender roles; women are not characteristically assertive while men are asserting at all times of the day. What are your thoughts on this topic, considering that student affairs is a heavily female-dominated field? Are women deficient when it comes to self-promotion? Do we fail to speak up for a promotion out of fear of judgment?
Carla Finklea Green is a residence hall director at Old Dominion University.