'As women, we are told not to brag. Here's exactly why we should.'

Getting ahead is as much about visibility as it is about value, and getting noticed is less about doing a great job and more about being seen to be doing a great job. Those who showcase their work, spotlight their wins and highlight their achievements create a professional edge. However, society’s distaste for women who boast makes self-promotion a pain point for women. Men who talk up their professional achievements are seen as accomplished, whereas women who do the same are seen as boastful.

Watch: There's a confidence gap that we should be aware of. Post continues after video.

Video via Mamamia.

No one likes a show-off, but in the world of work, we particularly despise these behaviours from women. It seems the rules for showcasing abilities and highlighting strengths are different for men and women.

Why does society support men to brag but abhor the same behaviour in women? And what happens to women’s prospects when they stay humble and modest?

Women are punished for self-promoting

Men are conditioned to be competitive and display their value in order to win the game of work. On the other hand, women hate to brag, so they have no problem with the societal expectation of women to downplay, diminish and discount. It’s automatic. Self-promotion creates a penalty for women and a push for men. The antidote is modesty as it enables women to influence and keeps the stereotypes in check. But it also keeps women playing small and flying under the radar. As a result, women stop claiming credit, and when women stop claiming credit, they stop getting credit. And down the spiral we go.


Build a brag book

Overcoming the boasting penalty is about changing your behaviour. Women tend to focus on development gaps and forget to celebrate what’s working well. A simple way to stay visible to your manager is to keep a brag book – a record of your weekly wins, achievements and accomplishments. It’s not enough that you do well. You need to be known for doing well. You need to be visible to be valued. Share your brag book in your monthly one-on-ones (and summarise them for your annual performance review). Tell your boss that your brag book helps you remember what went well so you can provide a balanced approach to reviewing your work.

Successful by association

Women are shying away from the spotlight and leaving others to speak about their wins and successes. Unfortunately, those wins are then credited to the people talking about them, not necessarily to the people doing them. People feel good about good news and so they feel good about the bearer of the news. This is success by association – creating emotional credit. Take every opportunity to report good news – yours, others’, the teams. Be the bearer of great news to boost your brand. This is a neat way to brag without bragging.

Your words become their thoughts 

When it comes to messages, we are programmed by exposure and repetition. When we hear the same message repeatedly, it unconsciously seeps into our brain and takes hold in the recesses of our mind. The same phenomenon occurs when we talk about ourselves in diminishing ways. So never diminish your skills in front of others. Only talk about yourself in ways you want to be talked about. ‘Budgets? Sure. I’ll give it a go. I love learning new things.’ ‘Presenting at the next town hall? Yep. I’ll do it. I love stretching myself out of my comfort zone.’ Your words become their thoughts, so speak wisely.


Listen to Minutes To Change Your (Work) Life where a Senior Manager explains how we can use aspects of performance to improve our communication skills at work. Post continues below.

Take the credit and enrol them with emotion

Sometimes we need to claim our work to get the credit. When your contribution is invisible, but you know it’s important to claim it, you can use the ‘claim and redirect’ strategy. Claim the credit and then redirect their attention to further amplify your impact and why it is so beneficial. This softens the act of claiming the credit. However, occasionally we achieve big things that are worth an honest to goodness brag. This is a step beyond merely claiming credit and a move into boldly showcasing your achievements. The key to sharing your wins and spotlighting your strengths is to fully feel the joy. Emotions are contagious and if you feel good about the achievement, others will feel good as well.

It’s not enough to be great; you have to be known for being great. It’s about boosting, not boasting. This requires visibility. The better you are at stepping into the spotlight, the more opportunities you create and the more you amplify your impact.

Edited extract from The Gender Penalty: Turning obstacles into opportunities for women at work (BACCA House Press $24.99) by Anneli Blundell. Find out more at

Feature Image: Supplied.

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