Why are women so bad at promoting themselves?

I often run media training workshops for women entrepreneurs and business women. I am always amazed and in awe of the talent and ability of the women I meet. Their ideas, their drive and passion are second to none. They have passion, energy and endless devotion to their product or service.  Yet when it comes to promoting themselves they are hopeless. ‘I am not very good at bigging myself up’ is the constant refrain ‘ or ‘ I was always told it wasn’t nice to boast.’

It all comes back to how women are seen and see themselves.  A successful woman is pushy whereas a successful man is ambitious. There seems to be an unspoken rule that a woman should never show the effort that goes into her life. Hence men perspire and women gently glow!  Somehow the professional woman should be effortlessly attractive, slim without dieting, a mother without learning and most importantly successful without showing the strain.

The rule is if you want to be noticed you have to stand out and to stand out you have to do something different and tell people about it. You don’t just drift upwards on a warm breeze waving at people as you pass and hope they notice – because they won’t. The more women denigrate themselves the less people will want to buy products and services from them.

At the beginning of my session I will always compliment my delegates on something they have said in the press, something they are wearing or something they have done. Invariably the response will be to mute my compliment “Oh yes, that got into the Evening Standard by accident”, “This old thing, I got it in Oxfam for 30p” or “Oh that, it was nothing”.  No one pays attention to ‘this old thing’ or ‘nothing’. Imagine if the responses had been ” Thank you, I was pleased with that piece because it really described the issues we are facing” or ” Yes it is a great dress and I love it” or ” It was a fantastic day and I was proud of what it achieved”.

And yet I can sense an almost physical reaction to behaving in this so called ‘pushy’ way. Pushiness in women conjures up beady eyes and a tight painted mouth. Pushy women are loud, tarty and sharp elbowed, have no scruples and don’t like other women. No woman would choose to describe themselves as pushy but to open the door you have to ‘push’ it open otherwise it will stay shut.

My advice to the women I work with is be proud of what you do and tell people about it. Don’t underplay your product or service because people want to buy the best and not something that sounds second rate. Use emotive words like outstanding, exciting, successful, brilliant, biggest and excellent. Make sure people at work know your successes and that the people you are selling to know them too. Success breeds success and research shows that if you put 100 people in a room they will always gravitate toward the person that stands out from the crowd. Make sure it is you.

About the author: Diana Soltmann specialises in corporate and financial services PR, crisis PR and workplace communications. Her strength lies in the quality of her strategic thinking; her ability to ensure the client’s ‘vision’ is translated into measurable outcomes. She is also a skilled media and presentation trainer and has assisted a wide range of private and public sector clients – organisations and individuals – in planning and executing crisis PR programmes.  Find out more at www.flagshipconsulting.co.uk

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