Women are likely to downplay their successes. Why you should be loud about them

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Illustration photo by Getty Images
Illustration photo by Getty Images

Merely listing my accomplishments on a CV doesn't feel like as big of a deal, but going into detail about them made me feel somewhat 'braggy.' 

I wondered whether this was just my imposter syndrome coming into play. I did a shameless Google search (I do fear anyone reading my browser history – yikes) and was comforted by the fact that I'm not the only one who seems to feel uneasy in this situation. 

According to a Harvard Business School study, "Women rate their performance less favorably than equally performing men." 

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In a time that's more accepting than ever for women to be loud about their accomplishments, I explored some of the reasons, so many of us still tend to shy away. 

It comes as no surprise that stereotypically, men (especially those in powerful positions) are depicted as being far from humble about their achievements. It always seems to be the narrative of the 'big boss man' who everyone respects for his accomplishments or riches, making it more socially acceptable for these men to speak about their achievemnts comfortably. 

Unsurprisingly, some double standards come into play. Women in leadership positions are often seen as "intimidating." They are stereotyped as being "irrational" - certainly not gaining the same amount of respect or admiration as their male counterparts. Understandably, this would make some women feel more reluctant to talk about their careers proudly.

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According to an article by The Guardian, people tend to view a bad experience with a woman boss to reflect all women bosses, saying, "No one sees a bad male boss as a reflection on all men everywhere, or indicative of male leadership capabilities. But bring up women at the head of the table, and every bad female co-worker or supervisor suddenly becomes Exhibit A for what's wrong with female bosses."

This wasn't something I previously considered, but it rang true and further reinforced the strict gender biases women face in the workplace. 

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Another significant and perhaps separate issue in itself: women's career success often becomes overshadowed by their motherhood, partnerships, domestic abilities, or looks - because every so often, we get a reminder that the 1950s housewife mentality is still alive and well.

The kind of attitude that would identify Amal Clooney as "George Clooney's wife" and not "accomplished international law and human rights barrister."

Careers are still not regarded as equally, or if not more, valuable part of women's lives, which doesn't allow for the normalisation thereof. 

Ironically, women who tend to be more career-focused are faced with more societal pressure to do it all. They are expected to work hard, be a full-time mother and good wife, which comes as no surprise that "promotions increase the chance of divorce for women, but not for men."

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Perhaps a reluctance of women to comfortably speak about their achievements is deeply rooted in the internalised misogyny of being conditioned to believe that men in leadership positions are the norm.

There's also this tendency to view men as being the breadwinners with a notion that "Men prefer female partners who are less professionally ambitious than they are." 

For this reason, many others, some women may prefer to assume more 'submissive' roles, which is perfectly okay. However, it is essential to address where these career decisions stem from.  

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Naturally, confidently speaking about your achievements is entirely dependent on the person, but there's no denying the more significant issues at hand.

Gender-based inequality in the workplace is still a significant problem that needs to be continuously addressed. That being said, it is essential to remember that ultimately, as women, we are empowering ourselves, and with the odds already against us, making our accomplishments smaller is counterproductive.

It is all a process of learning and unlearning. I now speak as confidently as I can about my achievements because I realise how crucial it is, and well, I earned it.

Here's to being loud and proud of our achievements and getting the opportunities we deserve!

Have you downplayed your achievements? Tell us here.

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