Harvard Business Review recently published an article, Four Ways Women Stunt their Careers Unintentionally. The evils include avoiding self-promotion, neglecting to ask for what you want, shunning attention, and keeping silent. Illustrating some of these female vices, the article describes Sharon Allen, former CEO of Deloitte Touche, who was passed over for a promotion during the early stages of her career. She went to her boss to enumerate the reasons she should have been on the list. He was shocked and told her he didn’t realize she had accomplished what she had. She had never told him.
I had a similar situation occur in my early career, but my manager knew my accomplishments. He just didn’t think I would approach him if I wasn’t on the list. Keeping me at a junior level helped my boss’s P&L. But when I met with him to discuss the lack of promotion, he quickly pronounced the decision an oversight and arranged to retroactively promote me.
Self advocating is the single most important career strategy for any professional and it’s not employed enough by women. Lauren Carlson hones in on the same issue in the Software Advice Blog, but specifically addresses ways female sales representatives sabotage their success. Carlson and her panel of experts added “making relationships a priority” over the sale in her list of gender specific faux pas. Women tend to take “no” from a client, concerned that pushing would denigrate their client relationship. Men tend to go back to the client to address her concerns and attempt a re-sale.
I hate to think that the male way of doing business is the right way…but the truth is, what works for men socially and culturally is the same behavior that makes them commercially successful. Women have to realize that appropriate success strategies in the office for women don’t necessarily mirror successful female behavior in the world at large. That’s the challenge.