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How Women Rise

Break the 12 Habits Holding You Back from Your Next Raise, Promotion, or Job

By Sally Helgesen and Marshall Goldsmith
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How Women Rise by Sally Helgesen and Marshall Goldsmith

How Women Rise (2018) explores the surprising things that women say, do and think in the workplace that hold them back from progressing. Using real-world examples and practical advice, the blinks explain how professional women can meet their full potential and rise to the top of their chosen career ladder.

Key idea 1 of 7

Women struggle to claim their own accomplishments.

Several years ago, one of the authors, Sally Helgesen, decided to interview successful professional women. Her aim was to find out what these women saw in the behavior of their younger colleagues that could be holding them back. The verdict was unanimous – the younger women all struggled with the word “I.”

Reluctance to take credit for personal achievements is a common problem among professional women. When the author discussed the topic with women with senior positions in accounting, consulting and law, they all agreed that younger female employees in their firm were conscientious, consistent and delivered work of a very high standard. It was even noted that they often worked harder than their male counterparts. Their weakness didn’t lie in the quality of the work – it lay in their discomfort with drawing attention to their successes and taking credit for their accomplishments.

For instance, they would underplay their own role in a team’s success, preferring to spread credit around than to acknowledge their hard work in front of senior colleagues.

This is a problem that the author has observed in the numerous workshops she’s conducted with diverse groups of professional women, and it’s evident in nearly every industry at every level in the workplace hierarchy.

Although seen as polite, being overly modest is more likely to harm a woman’s career than advance it. Over the course of their careers, both the authors have observed how men tend to distrust women who are self-deprecating about their achievements, considering them inauthentic. If a woman demonstrates this tendency in a management role, she also risks diminishing the accomplishments of the team she leads. As a manager, any failure to claim credit on behalf of the people she represents is a failure to acknowledge their hard work. By not recognizing the efforts of her team, she will end up demoralizing and being resented by her staff.

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