Lindsay Olson

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Why Women Need to Toot Their Own Horns at Work

There are many statistics out there proving that, despite the fact that we live in “modern times,” women still earn less than men in comparable positions. While it’s easy to put the blame on men, women must take some of the responsibility.

Part of the reason we’re earning less is because we’re often reluctant to talk about our accomplishments to our bosses. In a recent conversation on the LinkedIn group, Connect: Professional Women’s Network, Powered by Citi, women discussed the topic.

Why We Don’t Talk About Ourselves

While it’s difficult to lump all women into one stereotype, many women do feel like they’re perceived differently than men when they talk about their accomplishments.

Tameeka Robinson, Store Manager at CB2, said: “ If we go overboard with ‘tooting our own horn’ we can be viewed as cocky, not a team player, self absorbed, etc.”

Men, on the other hand, are quick to take credit for what they’ve done. Whether women don’t feel entitled to the pat on the back or simply lack the confidence to bring it up, it’s affecting not only our morale but also our bank accounts.

How to Put Yourself in the Limelight

While it may not be comfortable to do so, tooting your horn is a necessity if you want to get ahead in the workforce.

Leticia Guzzetta, Technical Publications Manager at Imagination Technologies, said on the LinkedIn conversation: “It is appropriate to speak honestly and openly about your accomplishments because no one is going to do it for you.”

1. Look at Your Accomplishments from the Outside. While you may not think it’s that big a deal that you generated half a million in sales for the company, others do. Consider what others will be impressed with. Ammie Neal, a Consultant in Sales Operations suggests keeping a summary of what you’ve done:

“Time flies and by end of year it is easy forget your earlier accomplishments. So, be sure to print a copy of the summary and put it in your mid-year/yearly appraisal file.”

2. Don’t Brag, but Be Honest. There’s no reason to constantly tell your office mates about your achievements. Save them for your performance review, when they’ll have the best impact on your boss.

3. Be Visible. It’s not always about pointing out what you’ve done. Sometimes it’s as important to simply be noticed. Speak up in meetings. Voice your opinion. Share your ideas.

4. Believe in Yourself. If you don’t show confidence, how can you expect anyone else to have the confidence enough to promote you or give you a raise? If it’s hard to come by, try faking it until you make it.

5. Ask for that Raise. Don’t wait until your boss decides you deserve a raise, or you’ll never get it. Come armed with that list of your accomplishments and convince your boss that you’re worth it.

6. Don’t Let Someone Else Take Your Credit.

Diana Wittenbrock works as Senior Sales Manager for Hilton San Francisco Union Square. She was so humble in her first job out of college that she didn’t put her name on many of her projects. She quickly learned her lesson:

“Little did I know a male supervisor I trusted was actually writing his name on them – until the day he got an award for all the wonderful work he had been doing. 100% all mine.”

Don’t be shy about taking ownership of your work. If you don’t, someone else might.

It’s time we change the fact that there only 40% of executives are women. Stand up for yourself, accept credit where it’s due, and don’t be afraid to polish that horn when necessary.


View of the Top

This is a guest post by Alison Kenney.

I started thinking about this blog post quite awhile ago, well before Anne Marie Slaughter’s article on Why Women Can’t Have it All appeared in The Atlantic. I think Slaughter’s argument is fascinating (and seemingly never-ending), but I’d like to focus on something she, and many other people recently, have pointed out: that there are fewer women than men at the top rungs of corporate management.

This is fairly obvious in PR – you can literally see the inequity if you were to page through a recent issue of PR Week that features photos of the CEOs of the nation’s top PR firms. But what is striking is that, unlike other industries with a large number of male CEOs, PR is a predominately female profession:  seventy percent of all PR professionals are female.

I don’t have an answer, or really even a speculation about why there are so few female CEOs in an industry that is dominated by female talent.

In addition to Slaughter, several champions of women’s rights have commented on the lack of women leaders:

In his Harvard Business Review blog post on Why Boards Need More Women, Yilmaz Arguden wrote: “While most CEOs recognize the importance of appointing directors of different ages and with different kinds of educational backgrounds and functional expertise, they tend to underestimate the benefits of gender diversity…When Fortune-500 companies were ranked by the number of women directors on their boards, those in the highest quartile in 2009 reported a 42% greater return on sales and a 53% higher return on equity than the rest…Experts believe that companies with women directors deal more effectively with risk. Not only do they better address the concerns of customers, employees, shareholders, and the local community, but also, they tend to focus on long-term priorities. Women directors are likely to be more in tune with women’s needs than men, which helps develop successful products and services. After all, women drive 70% of purchase decisions by consumers in the European Union and 80% of them in the United States.”

Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s COO has said, “Women are not making it to the top. A hundred and ninety heads of state; nine are women. Of all the people in parliament in the world, thirteen per cent are women. In the corporate sector, women at the top – C-level jobs, board seats – tops out at fifteen, sixteen per cent.”

Betsy Myers, a former senior official in the Clinton Administration and authority on leadership, says, “Women are no longer an interest group. Women are 52 percent of the population, a majority in the workforce. Companies that have more women in top positions, and more women on boards, are more profitable…Despite advances for women in the workplace, many of the statistics are discouraging. Only 3.6 percent of Fortune 500 companies are led by female CEOs, and women hold only about 14 percent of senior management positions within those companies. Despite the fact that more women than men are earning college degrees, and that women continue to make the bulk of buying decisions, corporate America has been slow to reflect that in its leadership ranks.”

Myers, and others, are forging some innovative practices for helping women achieve leadership positions:

Bentley president Gloria Larson launched the Center for Women and Business a year ago and has brought Myers on as its CEO. A recent Boston Globe article reported that the Center aims to advance women at all stages, from business-school students to upper management.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton founded the Women in Public Service Institute at her alma mater as Wellesley College. The institute is part of the Women in Public Service Project, founded by Clinton, the U.S. State Department, and the sister schools Wellesley, Barnard, Bryn Mawr, Mount Holyoke and Smith, with the goal of putting more women into political leadership positions around the world. Clinton says the numbers show a global politics in which the voices of women often go unheard. Women occupy less than 20% of seats in parliaments and legislatures around the world, she said. The goal of the institute is to bring that number up to 50% by 2050.

With these lofty examples in mind, I wonder what we can do in PR to encourage women to lead? Do you know of any leadership programs that encourage women in our industry?

Alison Kenney an independent PR practitioner with more than 15 years of PR consulting experience. She is based on Boston’s North Shore and has worked with organizations in the technology, professional services and consumer industries. She writes a bi-monthly PR column on You can find her at Learn more about Alison Kenney.


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