Have you ever been in a meeting where a female colleague downplays her accomplishments. Or maybe even gives credit to someone else for a project she led? This is not uncommon in the workplace, and it’s a phenomenon known as “modesty.” Being modest may seem like a positive trait. But it can actually hold women back in their careers and hurt their business.
In this article, we’ll explore why women tend to be too modest when it comes to work, the negative impact it can have on their career advancement and business. And we’ll zoom in what steps they can take to overcome this tendency and own their achievements in the workplace. Let’s break the modesty myth and empower women to confidently showcase their skills and accomplishments!
Why are women too modest?
Many women struggle with self-promotion at work, especially when it comes to highlighting their achievements and asking for recognition. This can have negative consequences for their career advancement, as they may miss out on opportunities for glamour work, which can lead to promotions and visibility, and end up doing more undervalued and unnoticed work.
Where does that modesty come from? Is it because women are often taught to be humble, polite and self-effacing, especially in the workplace? Is it the fear of being seen as arrogant, pushy or bossy, if they talk about their achievements or ask for recognition?
Or is it the backlash they may face from others who perceive them as violating social norms of female modesty?
Maybe it is the lack of role models or mentors. Those who can encourage them to showcase their talents and achievements and provide constructive feedback. It could also be the “Imposter syndrome” or self-doubt that makes them question their abilities and accomplishments and attribute them to luck or external factors.
It is overwhelming to think of the number of reasons women hide behind to not to have to sell themselves (and their business).
Own your business
Don’t get me wrong. Being modest is not a bad thing, but being too modest can be detrimental for women’s careers and business.
Women tech business owners need to showcase their achievements and successes, not just for their own personal gain, but also to counteract the gender biases and stereotypes that exist in the tech industry.
The unfortunate reality is that women are often overlooked and undervalued in the tech industry. Even despite having the skills and qualifications to succeed.
There is no definitive answer to whether women startup tech founders are more successful than their male counterparts. But research does seem to point in that direction. Women-led startups tend to have higher revenue growth rates than male-led startups. Although we must note, the number of women-led startups is significantly smaller than the number of male-led startups.
One study by Boston Consulting Group found that startups founded or co-founded by women generated 10% more in cumulative revenue over a five-year period than those founded by men, despite receiving less investment.
Another study by First Round Capital, a venture capital firm, found that companies with a female founder outperformed all-male teams by 63%.
So there is every reason to self-promote and boast your achievements as a women tech founder. By confidently showcasing your accomplishments, women tech business owners can challenge these biases and stereotypes and prove their worth in the industry. Additionally, showcasing your successes can help you secure funding, attract new clients, and build your brand reputation.
Steps to take
How can women overcome their modesty and self-promote more effectively at work? Here are some tips based on research and best practices:
Close the confidence gap
Women tend to underestimate their own abilities and performance, while men tend to overestimate theirs. This can lead to a confidence gap that affects how women present themselves at work.
- To close this gap, acknowledge your strengths, accomplishments and impact, and keep track of them in a portfolio or a journal.
- Challenge any negative self-talk or imposter syndrome that may undermine your confidence.
Seek feedback & endorsement
Women may hesitate to ask for feedback or endorsement from others, thinking that it will make them look needy or insecure. However, feedback and endorsement are essential for learning, improvement and validation. They can also help women gain visibility and credibility at work.
- Seek feedback and endorsement from a variety of sources, such as managers, peers, mentors, clients and customers.
Communicate your achievements and aspirations
Women may downplay or deflect their achievements or aspirations, thinking that they will speak for themselves or that they will be noticed by others. However, this can result in missed opportunities and overlooked potential. Women need to communicate their achievements and aspirations clearly, confidently and strategically.
- Use facts and figures to quantify results,
- highlight your unique contributions and skills,
- and align your goals with the organization’s vision and values.
- Also use positive and assertive language, avoid qualifiers and apologies, and tailor your message to your audience.
Leverage your network
Women may feel isolated or unsupported at work, especially if they are in male-dominated fields or positions. They may also face stereotypes or biases that limit their opportunities and advancement.
- Leverage your network and allies to overcome these challenges and create more opportunities for yourself and others.
- Build relationships with people who can offer guidance, sponsorship, advocacy and referrals.
- And also support other women by sharing information, resources, opportunities and recognition.
Let’s break that myth
I am sure this will give you enough ammunition as a women tech business owner to up your “bragging” skills, in order to overcome gender biases and stereotypes, establish your credibility, and achieve long-term success in the tech industry.
If you do need some support or feedback, you know where to find me.
As a female founder I have experienced my fair share of hurdles on the way of building a business. If you are building one right now, some of my experiences might be of value to you. Feel free to get in touch, I love to hear what you are working on.
CEO/Founder of ANDRS Projects: An innovator who is not afraid to fail forward on the way to create impactful change. Her life’s motto is “Dare to Create”.
1) Why It’s Harder For Women To ‘Brag’ About Themselves At Work — And Why …. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/modesty-norm-women_n_4644151 Opened 27-3-2023.
(2) Why women are locked out of top jobs, despite having high ambition – CNBC. https://www.cnbc.com/2020/03/05/why-women-are-locked-out-of-top-jobs-despite-having-high-ambition.html Opened 27-3-2023.
(3) Stop Being So Modest! Why Women in Business Need to Get Comfortable …. https://www.entrepreneur.com/leadership/stop-being-so-modest-why-women-in-business-need-to-get/326531 Opened 27-3-2023.
(4) Why don’t women brag at work? How to practice self-promotion – SmartBrief. https://corp.smartbrief.com/original/2022/04/why-dont-women-brag-at-work-how-to-practice-self-promotion Opened 27-3-2023.
(5) Why the Confidence Gap Is a Myth – The Atlantic. https://www.theatlantic.com/family/archive/2018/09/women-workplace-confidence-gap/570772/ Opened 27-3-2023.
(6) Women less inclined to self-promote than men, even for a job. https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2020/02/men-better-than-women-at-self-promotion-on-job-leading-to-inequities/ Opened 27-3-2023.