One of my contractors asked me to help the proposal manager put together consultant resumes and bios for a major proposal they were working on.
After I finished the first one I sent it to the proposal manager to make sure I was on the right track. She said, “I need this to be a little more salesy. It should say, ‘So-and-so is the greatest consultant that ever lived.'” We both laughed at the exaggeration, but I understood what she meant.
I went back to the consultants, one by one, and asked for their help in revising the resumes. Predictably, the men had no problem with what I was asking them for. In fact, I didn’t even have to go back to all of the men because in most cases I already had what I needed. It was the women that gave me a hard time.
“Oh, I just hate all that self-promotion stuff,” one of them said. “My work should speak for itself.”
“I understand what you need but this just makes me uncomfortable,” another one said.
I don’t need to write about the trend of women under-promoting themselves and failing to ask for more money or higher level positions. Lots of people have already written about that. The thing is, everyone says we women need to become more assertive. What if that’s not really the problem? What if men need to stop over-promoting themselves? If women follow men’s lead, we will get caught in a never-ending upward spiral of over-promotion and exaggeration. They say Generation Y is already dealing with impossibly high education and qualification standards when it comes to getting their first job. Where will all this puffery lead us?
I don’t think the problem with women is that we under-promote. I think we believe in humility and in the power of our achievements to speak for themselves. How do we get men on board with that?