International Women’s Day is the perfect time to remind women in leadership (and really, all women everywhere) of the absolute power they hold.
The power to drive change, set and achieve aggressive profit goals, provide a positive example for future generations.
In fact, firms with women in leadership positions outperformed those that were primarily led by men.
The thing is, women tend to hold back, second guess, or downplay themselves and their achievements, often citing team efforts over owning their personal victories. Even women already in leadership positions can be seen as too hard, too proud, too haughty—essentially too much if they take pride in their work and show it freely.
While men tend to own their accomplishments and take pride in talking about the work they did (and, let’s be honest, some of them have been known to take credit for women’s accomplishments, too), women shy away from talking about the amazing things they’ve done.
Sadly, even in 2023, women (and women in leadership, especially) are more often than not expected to conform to archaic societal norms and default to more modest and self-effacing personas. Confidently promoting themselves and their achievements comes with the risk of being perceived as arrogant, aggressive or pushy. Sharing the details of their personal stories can come off as attention-seeking, whiney, or needy.
To be both approachable and qualified is the balance women must master.
“Women, unlike men, are rarely perceived to be both competent and likable.”
Robin Hauser, The likeability dilemma for women leaders
Tell the Whole Story
Ask a man what his top achievements for the year are and he’ll likely be able to rattle off multiple projects without hesitation.
Ask the same of a woman, and she will likely name projects she’s proud of, but in the context of being part of the team that delivered them.
Because they don’t have this innate desire to minimize their power or take up less space, men tend to have no problem with showcasing their true selves. Women, however, have been told by society time and time again to only show the polished, perfect, palatable version of themselves.
But authenticity and, frankly, shining bright, is what gets you noticed in the world of personal branding.
We’ve talked about it on our website here and here, hosted a challenge all around it here, and talked about it multiple times on our podcast here. We have an entire webinar series called The Authenticity Tour dedicated to that very topic, and our CEO literally wrote the book, a best-selling book, based on it.
Authenticity is absolutely crucial in our business.
Because people respond to—people are drawn to—authentic people, authentic businesses.
But we’ve found that it’s incredibly hard, for women especially, to share more of themselves than they’re used to. To share a stripped back, less polished, and less perfect version. To share what’s real.
Women in leadership put more emphasis on knowing how they’re perceived by others than on embodying the core internal values that an authentic personal brand must be built on. Men in the same positions care much less how they will be perceived by others.
The way to get around this?
Put it all out on the table.
Own your achievements while also sharing your personal story.
Talk about the wins in your career journey, but also talk about the challenges you faced to get there.
And vice-versa. Talk about the losses in your career, but also talk about what that experience taught you along the way.
Acknowledge the friends, family, and colleagues that helped you reach your goals. But own the very real role you also played in leading the team, solving the problem, creating or executing the strategy.
On this International Women’s Day 2023, and every day, take control of your personal brand. Carve out your own unique path to success. And inspire a generation of younger women along the way.
It’s up to you.
Let’s get to work.