By: Lauren deLisa Coleman
30 Under 30.
10 Most Successful Senior Vice Presidents.
20 Women to Watch.
Just how much does receiving a professional award actually matter to a woman's career advancement?
These lists are about power. Who has it, who lost it, who is about to obtain it. Awards encourage competition; our culture tends to deeply value such prizes, trophies, and accolades.
Alex Charfen, co-founder and CEO of CHARFEN, a training, education, and consultant organization for entrepreneurs and small business owners, describes this phenomenon: "Professional awards unquestionably provide benefits to the winner's career, like increased awareness, social proof, and authority in their industry and community. Audiences see these awards as public recognition by third parties that you are exceptional and able to achieve something great. For some awards, like 40 Under 40 lists or roundups like Top CEO, just the recognition of being nominated can be valuable in and of itself. The higher the profile of the award or recognition, the greater esteem many may feel toward your consideration or winning."
Given such weight, the impact of gender inequality at work is important to ponder: What happens when an entire gender is overlooked for recognition, such as at this year's (at the time of this printing) Thurgood Marshall College Fund Annual Gala?
Executive business coach and author of Undeterred: The 6 Success Habits of Women in Emerging Economies Rania H. Anderson comments, "I wonder about the judges and question the quality of the event or organization. It makes me think that the organization did not put in the time and effort to have a diverse group of honorees. When I see an all-male line up for a whole list of awards, I find it hard to imagine that there were not some equally qualified women."
She continues, "Women whose achievements are visible and recognized advance further and are more satisfied with their careers. Since men are often better at promoting their own accomplishments and have traditionally been more networked in their industries, awards can serve as very helpful way for women to become better known. For many women, having third-party credible endorsement reduces the pressure to self-promote, something many women find difficult."
Mary Brinton, the Reischauer Institute Professor of Sociology at Harvard University, writes that gender stereotypes in the workplace are hard to break, and that, like it or not, we are all prone to engaging in stereotyping at one time or another. It could be said that men are more likely to simply be seen traditionally (stereotypically) as the achievers, leaders, and innovators.
What about the money?
There is another, vital piece of the awards equation: Winning awards and appearing on prestigious lists not only boosts one's visibility, but that visibility can also boost one's earnings. Adam Dailey, CEO of Funly Events, noticed something very interesting after he won certain awards: "Ever since I started winning stuff, I got asked for more [speaking] gigs, and started charging more. I don't typically speak for less than $1000 per session now. This took about one year after winning business awards to come to fruition, but happen it did!"
Lior Krolewicz, founder and CEO of Yael Consulting, echoes this sentiment: "I am VERY overcautious about the service I provide and how my customers are treated, which is why I was a one-man show for quite some time," he says. "And although I looked for a long time for help, but for someone who would put in sweat equity or get paid based on performance, I finally agreed to hire someone who had an AMAZING online reputation and won awards in my industry . . . I was willing to pay him nearly 70% more than I offered anyone before him just to have him on my team and leverage his brand."
Go get it
So how can you better position yourself, a la Viola Davis, for more prominent industry recognition?
Excel: Focus on creating strong performance and results.
Self-promote: Results alone will not speak for us; we have to speak for ourselves by finding ways to communicate our achievements to industry leaders and organizations.
Pick ourselves/pick other women: Before we can be picked by anyone or honored by an award, we have to first believe that we (singularly and collectively) are deserving of recognition and that our accomplishments matter.
"If every woman did what Viola Davis did [in her groundbreaking Emmy acceptance speech] and took advantage her own opportunities and platform (whatever that is) to advocate for more women," says Anderson, "we would collectively create a groundswell for change. When we focus on what's working and who's doing it right, as she did, rather than blaming and shaming, we'll make more progress."
Lauren deLisa Coleman is a digi-cultural trend analyst and author. She is a contributor to Daily Beast, an on-air commentator for MSNBC, and a professional speaker.
This article was originally published on Savvy, the pocket recruiter for busy, professional women.