Although increasing your visibility at work is an important element in advancing your career, studies show that women who speak up are judged more harshly than men who are assertive in the workplace.
This phenomenon makes women reluctant to call attention to their accomplishments or demand high-profile assignments. They often harbor the misguided assumption that their work will speak for itself.
“Women tend to be socialized or encouraged from the time they are young to not toot their own horn or to take a back seat, not be a show off, not be bossy etc. and this shapes behavior,” noted Dr. Catherine Ashcraft, senior research scientist for the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT), who responded to our questions via email.
So what are some ways that women in tech can raise their visibility and draw attention to their talents without venturing too far outside their comfort zones? Here are some techniques that may prove useful.
Form New Habits
Volunteering to make a key presentation at a conference or annual retreat, particularly one where leadership is present, can certainly raise your stature and visibility. But making a bold move like a speaking engagement can also leave you feeling overwhelmed, explained Colleen Slaughter, president and founder of Authentic Leadership International: “In my experience, committing to a steady diet of small steps is the best way to bring about lasting change that results in consistent opportunities to raise your profile.”
Start small by adopting a new tool and offering to lead a lunch-and-learn in its use, or propose a way to eliminate a backlog during the daily scrum. As your confidence grows, offer to settle conflicting software requirements between users and stakeholders, or serve as the go-to resource for a BA on a critical project to elevate your presence. Finding opportunities to add value to projects or daily interactions is the key to maintaining visibility in today’s ultra-competitive work environment.
Don’t Ask, Offer
Women tend to ask for opportunities to tackle plum assignments that showcase their technical abilities or impact the bottom line. Instead of asking permission, find a challenge or problem you think you can solve and do your boss a favor by offering to fix it.
“Increasing your visibility requires a mind shift change,” Slaughter said. “Converting your request into an offer that will help out your manager increases your chances of success.”
Shifting the way you approach your manager or team lead gives you greater control over the course of your career, as well. Knowing how to leverage your power and influence is just as important as knowing cutting-edge technology.
Show Up for Yourself
Most women feel uncomfortable promoting themselves or pointing out their accomplishments, so they assume a passive role in the workplace. Women also tend to downplay compliments, rather than leverage them. While you can’t change overnight, start the reprogramming process by changing the way you respond to compliments and becoming aware of perfectionist tendencies or fears of being perceived as arrogant or brassy that may be holding you back.
For instance, if your manager congratulates you on a job well done, say ‘thank you’ and then ask how your efforts contributed to your team’s success. Leveraging the compliment in the right way will encourage future interactions with high-level managers. Share your successes with family and friends and gradually increase your circle of influence.
Compared with men, women tend to underestimate and understate their abilities. The good news is that, with practice, you can become more comfortable tooting your own horn and relaxing the perfectionistic standards that keep you from pursuing high-risk, high-reward roles and opportunities.
“Get an accountability buddy or read books to raise your awareness and learn new skills,” Slaughter said. “Celebrating goals as you achieve them will ultimately give you the confidence to pursue high-stakes, high-visibility roles and projects.”