Women are bad at getting noticed. We’ll share how hard or long we’ve worked, but fail to mention what we’ve achieved. Alternatively we promote ourselves, tell everyone how good we are, but disenfranchise our peers along the way.
Some time ago I presented some of Deborah Tannen’s work on gender and communication to a group of women. I told them that boys and girls typically learn different communication styles and rituals growing up. What men learn is much more useful in navigating organisational life.
I moved on to the art of self promotion and included an exercise that required women to stand up and tell a colleague about some successes they’d had at work. I suggested they tell a story that revolved around them doing something fabulous for their company. I encouraged them to make it relevant and interesting to their listener. I gave them 90 seconds to do it.
There were a few senior blokes in the crowd. One of them came up to me after the self promotion exercise and said,
‘No disrespect, Deb, but before that exercise, I thought most of your presentation was crap. I’d always thought that men and women were the same!’ He paused with a furrowed brow before continuing, ‘Just then I went around the room listening to some of the brightest women I know. I couldn’t believe what I heard. They all put me to sleep! They shared lists from their CVs, didn’t connect what they’d done to make it relevant or interesting. They couldn’t tell me anything that would make me want to hire them – and I know how good they are!’
Then, as an after thought, ‘I’m really glad I came today – you taught me something. I’m going to have to help these girls get noticed – they sure can’t do it themselves.’