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The art (and power) of the brag

Happy woman

I recently had a conversation with a friend, an accomplished, retired executive who sits on corporate boards. When we get together, we compare notes on our careers and discuss how men and women, especially minority women, progress differently in their careers. This time, we talked about how women and men talk about their accomplishments.

We started laughing at how we each meticulously and painfully go through our resumes and bios, paying attention to every word and title to ensure we are not exaggerating. My friend told me about an experience she had when she was given a special assignment outside her executive role, leading the development of corporate strategy for one of her company’s divisions and working with a cross-functional team.

When she tried to capture the highlights on her resume, she didn’t feel comfortable writing that she led the effort. She thought it was more important to highlight being part of a cross-functional team that led the effort.

A male senior director who read her resume was surprised she didn’t highlight her accomplishments outside of the team. From that point on, she noticed how her male peers would exaggerate their accomplishments on their resumes.

Own your story

I thought about this issue from a Latina’s perspective. I believe there are cultural norms that keep Latinas, especially, from self-promoting or bragging about our accomplishments. In The Latinas Guide to Success in the Workplace, Rose Castillo and Louis E.V. Nevaer talk about the challenges and opportunities Latinas encounter in the workplace.

“Ask a group of Latinas, and there will be a consensus that the one cultural tendency that is a drawback for Latinas is modesty,” they wrote. “The importance of learning how to speak about yourself your experience and accomplishments — is critical to every aspect of the workplace.”  

I believe that all women need to do a better job of self-promoting. As Marla Tabaika wrote in “Why Women Leaders Need to Brag More” on INC.com, “Women can start spurring cultural change by bragging, self-advocating and not apologizing for it.”   

I’ve started looking at LinkedIn profiles, noticing the differences in how women and men present themselves. A 2017 study of member data by LinkedIn found that men tend to include more information, tout their skills more aggressively and have larger networks on LinkedIn than their female counterparts. LinkedIn found:

  • Men tend to skew their professional brands to highlight more senior-level experience, often removing junior-level roles altogether.
  • Women are more likely to have shorter profile summaries.
  • In the United States, women on average include 11 percent fewer skills than men on their LinkedIn profile, even at similar occupations and experience levels.

Over the years, I’ve been asked by colleagues to write recommendations for their profiles; only recently have I asked others to write recommendations for me.

I believe each woman should own their story. Never hesitate to highlight the hard-earned accomplishments you’ve have worked so hard to achieve.

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Marie Quintana is CEO of Quintana Group, focused on transformational business strategies to engage consumers and maximize sales results. A past NEW board member, Quintana previously served as PepsiCo Inc.’s senior vice president multicultural sales and marketing.

Views expressed in blogs, posts and user comments are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Network of Executive Women or its Officers, Board members and corporate partners.