Bragging Rights: Why Women Don't Talk Themselves Up and How to Do It Effectively

Women give the credit away. When we talk about a project we spearheaded, we talk about the great team we had, how it was a collaborative effort or how we worked together with our boss. We add negative elements to many of our achievements, thereby downplaying them. Why?
This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.

A recent DNTL Podcast on CBC's radio one discussed the issue of bragging. Many of us -- especially women -- struggle to talk about ourselves. Why is this? Research conducted by Yale University sheds some light on the topic of bragging.

Corinne Moss-Racusin , a Yale associate whose research focuses on reactions to women who don't behave in a stereotypical way, conducted a study where she had male and female test subjects conduct a mock job interview. During the interview, they were asked questions that forced them to self-promote -- to talk about their achievements. Moss-Racusin discovered that men are much better at this than women.

Women give the credit away. When we talk about a project we spearheaded, we talk about the great team we had, how it was a collaborative effort or how we worked together with our boss. Women are very "I" adverse -- we are very democratic and don't want to appear to be talking about ourselves.

Women also tend to add negative elements to many of their achievements. While men might say, "I excelled on the course," a women will point out that, "I struggled earlier in the course, because the material was very difficult, but I did much better toward the end." Women often point others toward negative aspects of themselves that they don't need to disclose.

So should women just learn to speak up and brag more? Not necessarily. As Holly Buchanan of Marketing for Women Online points out, women are judged more harshly than men if they come across as bragging, despite the fact that men brag three times as much.

Moss-Racusin adds that women who brag violate gender stereotypes, and this is noticed by people around them. Women and men are equally negative toward women who brag. According to her research, women who brag and self-promote are less liked in the workplace, are seen as less warm, earn less money and are passed over for advancement or suitable positions. The backlash against bragging has real, tangible consequences for hundreds of confident women.

And it's not just in the real world -- our distaste for bragging steps over into the online world. Sites like Twitter and Facebook are basically designed to brag, yet Maria Bustillos points out in her article, "Why Can't We Brag on Twitter?" that most of the bragging is done by men. "I don't think I've ever seen a women retweet praise for her own work. But men do it all the time. Men who I admire greatly! Men whose panache I would love to somehow coax onto my own helmet. Do I mind when someone else retweets a compliment to himself? No!"

So how should you brag? In the podcast, Diane Flacks, accomplished actress, performer and utter bragging failure, gives us some tips she picked up from the experts that helped her turn her bragging aversion around.

Imagine yourself in the Third Person: If you were looking across the table at yourself in an interview situation, what would you expect to hear? Create an elevator pitch of your achievements as if you were talking about someone else -- this can help women get over their fear of talking themselves up.

Nominate yourself for awards: No one know it's you who nominates, and then you can say, "I was nominated for an award." It's a fact. Plus, you might win some fabulous prizes.

Have someone brag for you: As a man, Diane's husband has no problem bragging, so she gets him to talk her up. You might have a friend or business associate who's great at self-promotion -- get them to talk up your business, skills or services next time you attend an event.

My advice to you is to ask for recommendations as well. LinkedIn is the best place to do so. Send out requests for recommendations to your friends and co-workers. Ask for endorsements (a new great feature in LinkedIn that doesn't require writing skills, just a push of a button to endorse someone's particular skillset). Then incorporate quotes from those recommendations into your resume.

Whatever you decide to do, take a minute to remember your accomplishments and never underestimate yourself. Find a way to bring your achievements up at the critical times in your life (like an interview) in a way that is comfortable for you but that shines light on your great work. The key is to do it with humility, but confidence.

Popular in the Community