Wrap Up – Women in Archives

We are so thankful for everyone who has read and shared our posts. Thanks to all who commented publicly on the blog, social media platforms, and personal messages. Thanks to those discussing these topics off line with your colleagues, friends, and family.

What have we learned over the past two weeks writing about women in archives?

  • We weren’t the only ones asking trusted colleagues “Has this happened to you?”, “Do I really come across as mean?”, “Did you notice there are no female finalists for this high level or technical position?”
  • There are still enormous differences in how men and women are treated in the workplace at large and in the archives and library professions. We only skimmed the surface of recent studies in a variety of fields highlighting a few of these differences.
  • The personal is political. Our deeply personal experiences intimately connect to a larger social and political structure. Everything we’ve discussed has an impact on how we do our jobs. (We didn’t even get to discussing women and technology, being viewed as experts, etc…)
  • Social networks and sharing are important. As Maureen said in our kick off post, one reason for this blog in the first place was to share our work to help each other. We need to help each other in other ways too. Whether that’s providing advice on how to handle an inappropriate situation in the workplace or encouraging someone to apply to that next step up job we know they would rock (even if they worry they aren’t ready/qualified yet).
  • These issues are hard to write about. (Hence a wrap up post five days later than planned.) We probably should have kept track of the hours it took.
  • There is so much more to talk about. We brainstormed many more potential posts. We bet you have ideas too.

So, what’s next? What do you think? What ways will you be advocating for women in the profession or your institution? How can we continue the conversation?

Real Talk. Negotiating Salary in Archives

I’ve written and spoken about this issue before. The long and short of it is that women don’t tend to negotiate their salaries, and not doing so goes a long way toward accounting for the wage gap between men and women. So, now that I’m in my fifth professional job, I’m going to give you some real talk about my approach to negotiating.

You do not work for the joy of the collections. You do not work for the joy of research. You work for money. And even if you don’t, I do, and I don’t want you sending bad messages to employers that we’re compensated by the joy of our experiences.

Do everything you can to make sure you’re not negotiating with your future boss. If possible, it’s best to negotiate with someone from HR whom you’ll never see again in your life. If your future boss calls to make you the offer, say “I’m very happy to consider this offer. Could you please arrange for me to negotiate details with a human resources representative?”

On the flip side, if you’re a manager, you should also insist within your organization that negotiation must happen between the candidate and someone from HR (or the business office, if you’re a teeny-tiny organization and you don’t have an HR department). It is in your best interest that your new employee has the opportunity to negotiate an employment situation that works for everyone. Do you really want them to get a bad deal because they’re worried about how they’ll come off to you?

For my first job, my future boss emailed me and said that he would like to interview me, but I should know that the salary was set and that he would require me to stay for three years. I said that we could talk about that after he made an offer. Guess what? I was able to get a little more money and I didn’t agree to stay for three years. Don’t assume that a bogus first offer is final.

Educate yourself about market salaries for your job type and in your area. This is obviously really tricky when job ads don’t post salary information. But, salary information for public employees is freely available. You can even call the reference desk at a university or public library to ask them to help you look up salary information.

I’m a huge advocate for talking about salaries with friends (or anyone who asks — I’ve worked for five university libraries and I’m happy to answer questions about what I earned to anyone who contacts me). It’s hard to know if you’re making less money than you should be, or less money than male colleagues.

When I negotiated for my current job, I called the person who filled my seat before (it was a slightly different job, but the skill set is comparable and he came in with about the same experience and education). At one point in my negotiation, I point-blank said “I know that this person was making $X when he started four years ago and $Z when he left. $Y would be an equitable salary.” This did a lot to re-balance power in that negotiation. If you can say “I know that someone with the same job title at X peer institution makes $Y,” you can help demonstrate that they need to be competitive with the rest of the market.

They’re going to say a lot of stuff about equity within the institution, their budget, blah blah. And I don’t buy it. Let me tell you why. Librarians/archivists are the second-lowest paid profession that requires a master’s degree (we’re ahead of social workers… woo). We’re ALL already underpaid. If you’re an accomplished candidate, play hardball. And if you’re just starting out, start getting them used to the idea that archivists are worth money and that we’re going to ask for it. Professionals in other specialized fields wouldn’t put up with this, and neither should we. It may be absolutely true that this institution is broke and suffering. But this is not your responsibility. You have no obligation to let them balance their budget on your back.

For me, this has hit really close to home. I don’t work at a poor organization — in fact, I work at an extremely wealthy organization. My husband has pretty much the same job I do, but he’s in a museum at my university and I’m at an archives. He had been in his position for a year before I started, so I obviously knew his salary and the resources available to him. He also doesn’t have a master’s degree, and I have a very good one. I’ve been working as a professional for slightly longer than he has. Anyway, I was pretty gobsmacked when the starting salary I was offered was $13K less than what he earns.

I was ready for a serious negotiation. I’m not here to help protect this university’s decisions about which professionals in which departments deserve better salaries. The HR rep’s concerns about parity within the department rolled right off of me — they’re very welcome to give everyone else a raise to help achieve parity. I knew that I was a very desirable candidate, and I knew how much money they needed to offer me for me to take the job.

Negotiations can be full of bullshit. Stay cool with your list of what you want. HR reps like to talk about the intangible benefits of working at a wondrous institution like theirs — listen politely and let them say their piece, but don’t fall for it. I’ve worked at three Ivy League universities and two very wealthy private research universities, and really, the benefits (especially the “intangibles”) are all pretty much the same. The “merit increase” process is all pretty much the same, so don’t assume they’ll come to realize that you’re a spectacular employee and will give you a big raise. They won’t. You need to be in the ballpark of where you want to be at the time of negotiation, or it’s never gonna happen.

Obviously, you need to be polite and you need to listen. It’s best to start the conversation by asking “are you able to negotiate salary?” As we know, “tone” is important for women. You may end up with a crappy salary, and you shouldn’t beat yourself up if the negotiation doesn’t go the way you want it to. You may even have to walk away from a truly crappy offer. The very most important thing is for you to develop a sense of responsibility and solidarity so that when you’re in the position to affect a new employee’s salary/hire package, you won’t participate in the bogus hivemind of scarcity and sacrifice that seems so prevalent in archival institutions.

Bossy, abrasive, and emotional

Here are some real life situations my fellow bloggers and other women we know in the profession discussed recently at SAA:

  • I bought up an ethical objection to a proposed new policy in a public meeting and was told “[name] you’re just being too emotional about this.”
  • When I bring up an issue with a current practice at a staff meeting and offer alternatives I’m told “[name] you’re being too critical.” When a male colleague brings up a similar issue and offers alternatives no one responds to him in this manner. He’s thanked for bringing up the issue/being willing to work on the issue.
  • Two female candidates interviewed for a position; one was better qualified but was very blunt. When the interviews concluded, she was critiqued by the (male) chair of the search committee for being “too aggressive.” The rest of the staff thought she was a breath of fresh air.
  • Being told by a co-worker “You need to ‘play nice’ if you want to change things.” (aka wait until people like you more before doing anything.)
  • In a small group meeting, I was conversing with my male colleague and told him to let me know when his part of the project was ready. I was promptly scolded in front of everyone for not saying “please” by an older female colleague.

While the examples above are verbal (and a small snapshot of experiences), Kieran Snyder released a study last week on how women and men are described in written performance reviews. The results aren’t pretty.

Results showing that women receive more critical and negative feedback then men.

Results showing that women receive more critical and negative feedback then men.

  • 58.9% of reviews of men’s work included critical feedback compared to 87.9% of reviews of women’s work.
  • Negative personality criticism shows up two times out of the 83 (2.4%) critical reviews for men. For women, it’s in 71 of 94 (95.9%) critical reviews. Essentially, “Men are given constructive suggestions. Women are given constructive suggestions — and told to pipe down.”
  • Bossy, abrasive, strident, and aggressive describe women’s behavior when they lead. Emotional and irrational when women object. Each word showed up multiple times in women’s reviews, but only the word aggressive showed up three times in men’s reviews. In two of those instances, it was to encourage men to be more aggressive.

Snyder’s study found that the gender of the manager didn’t seem to make a difference in the reviews (besides that reviews by female managers were about 50% longer.) Yesterday Carrie posted about being an advocate for those you supervise. Let’s add to that list with the charge to think carefully about the words you use to describe your employees. Maybe give yourself more time in your schedule to write performance reviews. Write drafts and let them sit for awhile so you can come back with a fresh eye and ask yourself:

  • Am I describing the person’s work or their perceived personality?
  • If I am critiquing personality traits, how does that affect their performance?
  • Am I providing negative comments when describing work well done?
  • Am I providing constructive feedback so they know what areas need improvement?
  • Is my feedback (positive or negative) providing concrete examples?
  • Would I describe this person differently if they were a different gender? Could someone guess this person’s gender just by reading the review?

Beyond performance reviews, we all need to carefully think about the language we use to describe or react to (written or verbal) all of our employees and colleagues. The words we use matter and can make a huge difference in how someone feels about their work and value, not to mention the future of their professional lives.

Advocacy and the Middle Manager

So we’ve been talking a lot about professional and workplace issues that disproportionately affect women the last week or so.  Meghan’s last two posts in particular are pretty stark reminders that there are repository-specific, institutional, professional, and federal policy levels that work against equitable workplaces.  Meaning it is time for those of us in any kind of management roles to be asking ourselves what our responsibilities as supervisors are and how we can address some of these issues for ourselves and for our staffs.    

I supervise a unit that includes about 7 full-time professional archivists (give or take depending on the ebb and flow of project gigs) in a large special collections library housed within a massive university library system.  Large, structured, hierarchical organizations are designed to make most workers invisible to upper management.  The sort of middle-management type role that I fill in my organization functions, both intentionally and unintentionally, to depersonalize a lot of the work that goes on in my unit and to create buffers between types of staff in the library.  In many ways this is a good thing– I don’t need an Associate University Librarian weighing in on something like how to structure external links in finding aids– we can handle that, thank you very much.  

The flipside of that is that the more human needs of staff are generally not seen by the policy makers at an institution.  Obviously most of us, even those of us who are in management positions, are not the deciders on HR policy.  But that doesn’t mean that we can’t instigate any change in our own offices or institutions.  I’ve always approached my job as a manager with the understanding that I am an advocate first and foremost.  I get people what they need so they can do their job right and try to take away any barriers that prevent getting the job done.  This advocacy role is especially key when thinking about work-life balance and workplace accommodations.  And since us low and middle management types are, as direct supervisors, the ones most likely to be aware of issues and concerns that impact our staffs we are the ones who have the responsibility to make some noise and, hopefully, make some changes.

But what can we do?  What are some concrete steps we can take?

  • Be an advocate!  Take employee concerns to managers, directors, and HR officers and make it really clear that you support your staff and demand that an institution make reasonable efforts to be supportive as well.
  • Be sensitive.  If someone who reports to you is coming to you with a medical, family, or other personal issue looking for some kind of an accommodation that person is likely in a position where he or she is already feeling vulnerable.  Respect that this person may not be comfortable or able to go to higher level decision makers.  Also be aware that someone may need to share news about health or family issues with a supervisor before they are really ready to make that news public.  Show some discretion.
  • Think about options and alternatives and try to be flexible in order to meet employees’ needs.  Is there anything mission-centric that an employee can do from home one day a week? Are there ways to adjust schedules, negotiate lunch breaks, or otherwise figure out ways to work with schedule requirements?  Do you have staff around who can assist with heavy lifting if an employee is unable to manage that for whatever reason, or find other alternatives?
  • Be aware that sometimes there are outside factors that will hamstring you.  You probably have less flexibility and fewer options with hourly support staff than with professional employees.  Your institution may not have bereavement days and may force an employee to use vacation time.  You can’t change everything. It sucks, but it’s true that there are things you can’t do, but recognize what those are and focus on what you can change.
  • Ask.  Our institution recently changed the way that we accumulate personal days, resulting in a staff member having bought plane tickets for a vacation she no longer had the PTO to cover; HR worked with her.  When our management team was unwilling to adjust a staff member’s security level to allow her to enter the library early (to leave early to care for a family member) we located office space outside the security perimeter so she had more flexibility.  It never hurts to ask for what you want or what your staff needs.
  • Listen.  People have a sense of what an ideal solution would look like most of the time, respect that and hear them out, try to work with it.  Don’t be a pushover or give in to suggestions or demands that would negatively impact other parts of your work or harms other staff members, but be open.  

Most of all remember that with slight power comes great responsibility.

Conference Attendance as a New Parent

I recently returned from presenting a poster at this year’s Society of American Archivists annual conference in Washington DC. SAA essentially served as the bookends for probably the most eventful year in my life — right after last year’s conference in New Orleans, I learned I was having a baby, due in April; I finished up my graduate degree this past spring, and then gave birth; I proposed, presented, and chaired a seminar at the Rare Books and Manuscripts Section Preconference in Las Vegas in June; returned to work full-time in July; and then attended and presented at SAA in August. All of my professional participation this past summer would have been stressful even if I weren’t recovering from labor and then nursing a newborn. If anyone reading is thinking about proposing conference sessions and then having a baby shortly before your conferences, I advise you to reconsider. It was really hard.

I put myself through it all because I felt I could not give up my chance to actively participate in my profession. Like many professional archivists and librarians at universities, I am regularly reviewed by my library for Continuing Appointment, the equivalent of tenure at my institution. It is a mandatory process that occurs on a schedule predetermined by my date of hire. Professional engagement, like my seminar and poster, is a critical piece of an overall assessment of my credentials and qualifications as an archivist. Getting selected to speak or serve at SAA or RBMS is very competitive, and so the fact that I had two projects chosen in one summer was very exciting. I wanted to participate professionally — it was just bad timing for me personally.

But, it happened and I was determined to make the best of it. In the process, I discovered how difficult it can be to attend our professional conferences as a parent, particularly as a nursing mother. Before I was in this situation myself, I had no idea what sort of commitment it takes to nurse a baby. You cannot just take a break from nursing for a few days; it is a relentless schedule. Furthermore, many women nurse their babies for up to a year. That means odds are high that those women will come up against at least one professional conference. They can either express their milk at the conference, attend the conference with their infant, or not attend. This year, SAA proactively addressed the need for a lactation room — the hotel spa rooms were set aside for nursing mothers, assuming that there was one available when they asked. It was still awkward, because I was essentially forced to ask the hotel staff for permission to pump. But it was better than having my boobs out in a public bathroom while I was attempting to be a professional, so, thank you, SAA. I know of nothing at RBMS for lactating women — I ended up spending about half of the conference back and forth between my hotel room and the sessions. Neither conference really seemed to address the issue well in advance; nothing was available in the program, or on the website, meaning that women like me who were considering whether or not to attend were essentially left with a best-guess make-it-work approach. I ended up finding out about the lactation rooms at SAA via Twitter.

It was also my first opportunity to consider how my future childcare needs would impact my attendance at professional conferences. I left my two-month old child at home with my spouse when I attended RBMS; logistically, traveling across the country with a baby that young seemed too hard. But for SAA, I wanted to bring my family; so, I followed with interest SAA’s deliberations about on-site childcare, thinking that it would be worth knowing more for future conferences. Their decision for this year was to offer no on-site childcare for attendees, but to consider a co-op approach (shared between parents) for future conferences. I looked into other conferences and found that ALA offers a $25/day reimbursement to assist with childcare. (This would cover *maybe* two hours of childcare? But at least they acknowledge the existing need.) Other professional groups, like the American Historical Association, have grants that eligible attendees can apply to receive. I found that the Modern Language Association offered onsite childcare during its 2014 conference (preregistration required; cost unclear). The fact remains that professional participation is out of reach for many parents of young children. There is no way that I would have been able to participate at the level that I did without the help of my spouse.

At this point, I’m still brand new at balancing my work life with parenting, but the past year has brought a number of things to light that I would like to put forward as action points for professional archives organizations. We may be a ways off from paid parental leave for everyone (although, at least Obama has said it was a good idea), but if organizations like SAA and RBMS began to proactively consider the needs of all their members, we could clear the path for people who want to participate in our annual meetings but are hindered by the logistics of parenthood. The archival profession is so invested in making our records accessible to all; I think we could do better to make our annual conferences more accessible as well. My wishlist:

  • Lactation rooms are key: women need rooms with a chair, a working electrical outlet, and a sink. It would also be helpful to know where the room is located. (Groundbreaking ideas, I know, but I’ve been amazed at how these rooms are often disguised.)
    • Side note: did you know that thanks to the Affordable Care Act, employers are legally required to offer breaks and lactation rooms (that are separate from the bathroom) for nursing mothers? Plus, there are additional protections for breastfeeding women offered by most states.
  • Conferences should be at facilities that recognize the potential presence of children. Did anyone else notice that there were zero changing tables in the Marriott’s public restrooms? I had to change my baby on a bench in the hall.
  • Conferences should be at budget-conscious conference hotels and locations (which will benefit everyone, not just people who might want to bring their families)
  • SAA and RBMS should make a real attempt to offer childcare or support childcare costs, rather than just talk about it during the conference registration period when it is too late to actually do anything. Doesn’t the fact that we just had the Largest. Meetings. Ever (both RBMS and SAA broke attendance records this year) mean we have some extra cash to throw at these issues?

How have other parents balanced attending professional conferences with their need for childcare or lactation rooms? I’m also curious how any single parents have managed it. What else should we add to the wishlist? Also, before anyone asks in the comments, yes! I did fill out my post-conference evaluations.

Caution: Pregnant Lady

Academia tends to have a reputation of being a fairly warm and fuzzy place of enlightened minds and progressive politics. Universities like mine pride themselves on liberal benefits packages that emphasize work-life balance and family friendly policies. This past year I got to compare perception to reality as I worked full-time, attended graduate school part-time (at a different institution), and gave birth to my first child. I found it really interesting, at times frustrating, to experience pregnancy from both sides of the ivory tower: as an archivist in a special collections library, trying to remain active and engaged with my job and the profession, versus as a master’s student in a history department, trying to graduate before my baby was born.

My workplace is pro-baby; many of my colleagues are parents, and the library administration is supportive of staff taking time off to have children. In regards to leave policy, the library is generous, particularly for its professional staff. I had no problems taking leave for doctor’s appointments or other medical issues during my pregnancy. My university offers three weeks of paid parental leave, which must be used following three weeks of the employee’s own leave. This policy seemed stingy at first, until I looked into other university policies and found that many institutions give no paid parental leave — the employee must use vacation or unpaid leave. The typical “family leave” policy bragged about by institutions basically just promises that you won’t lose your job or benefits if you need to take time off for family. Legally, according to FMLA, institutions of a certain size must offer 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for family members — so, most of these places are just following the law, and nothing more. In my case, I worked until the week I delivered my baby, and then took 13 weeks of leave, using a combination of my sick leave, the paid maternity leave, and my vacation time. I feel extremely lucky to have not had to take any unpaid leave. I also feel extremely lucky to work at a place that respected my time away from the office: My supervisor did not expect me to check email, call in to meetings, or answer for anything during my leave.

My experience as a graduate student was quite different than my experience as a university staff member. As someone working full-time, and not teaching or otherwise employed by the history department, I was already a nontraditional student for my program. But my pregnancy set me apart even more. My thesis adviser originally encouraged me to take a leave of absence for spring, believing that I would be too tired and distracted by my pregnancy to work on and defend my thesis. Another professor regularly made comments in class about my status as the “pregnant lady,” and at one point wrote a note on an assignment asking me if a mistake was due to “pregnancy brain.” Many of my problems stemmed from my professors’ inexperience in dealing with pregnant students. I was also inexperienced at dealing with being pregnant, and addressing these comments head-on. I gave birth exactly one month after my thesis defense. I cannot imagine returning to school and trying to write my master’s thesis now, as my adviser originally suggested a year ago.

On the one hand, I had a generally positive experience with my employer, especially in comparison to my concurrent experience as a graduate student. But, in the grand scheme of things, everything was still harder than it needed to be. I faced the same ignorant questions and unintentionally insulting comments that every pregnant woman faces, including plenty of remarks from colleagues and classmates. (I also received those same comments from friends, family, and strangers — many people outside of academia. People can become ridiculously invested in strangers’ lives and life choices, and pregnant women seem to attract the worst sorts of judgey, nosey comments at precisely the time when those women are feeling exposed, uncomfortable, and vulnerable.) I also found that my status as a pregnant woman put me at a disadvantage whenever it came to asserting myself. As our other bloggers have found, being labeled “too emotional” is already a common problem faced by women in the workplace. It can be very difficult to be taken seriously when sometimes you actually *are* emotional.

How does any of this relate to our theme of women and the archival profession? For one thing, the statistics suggest that pregnant ladies are all around. Survey respondents to the A*CENSUS were about 65% women, and nearly four out of five respondents under thirty years old were women. The census documents that three times more women than men began their archival careers between 2000 and 2004, the year of the survey. A 2010 survey about professional satisfaction among archivists under 35 ended up with a pool with women as 79% of respondents. With so many younger women entering the profession, it is time to improve the conditions faced by the pregnant women among us. Isn’t it a bit sad that three weeks of paid maternity leave was such a lucky break for me? Maternity leave for American workers is pathetic when compared to the rest of the world. But I was surprised that universities are not more generous in terms of parental leave for their staff — Duke is willing to pay for college tuition for my child to attend any school in the country, but is not willing to give me even a full month of paid maternity leave? Also, institutions that restrict parental leave to either vacation or unpaid time off are being needlessly punitive to their employees. My sick leave should be mine to use as I choose. Unfortunately, that is not the reality for many new parents, even when they work in the family-friendly world of academia. In addition, I should clarify that my institution’s paid parental leave is only available to the primary caregiver — so, if my spouse had also worked for Duke, he would not have been eligible to take that leave. Only one parent gets it. Considering that I spent my first six weeks of maternity leave recovering from major surgery, I find the designation of “primary caregiver” laughable and relatively insulting to fathers. This policy hurts everyone. Why are institutions encouraging the establishment of a “primary caregiver,” anyway?

The problems facing pregnant women go far beyond the archival profession or even academia as a whole, but, having experienced it firsthand, it has made me reconsider what it means to be a truly welcoming and accommodating workplace. I am so grateful that my colleagues were supportive and kind to me during this past year. Now it is time to push for broader changes at an institutional level. Ideally, I would like to see:

  • Paid family leave for women and men. Three weeks is not enough.
  • More creative approaches to keeping a work-life balance. One of my colleagues took 6 months of parental leave; another negotiated a 3/4-time schedule that gave her summers off to spend with her kids. I also know of several situations outside my institution where staff (all women, coincidentally) needed to take extended leave to care for elderly parents. All were able to keep their full benefits. These sorts of ideas should not be considered radical at the institutional level.
  • Protection and resources for pregnant women, especially graduate students, who find themselves treated differently by their departments or supervisors. Fortunately I wasn’t relying on my program for my livelihood. Other women are not that lucky and may feel unable to speak up, even when they have every right to complain about inappropriate comments or attitudes.

My transition to parenthood has changed my understanding of what it means for an institution to be accessible. I look forward to sharing more thoughts on what the archives profession can do for parents, particularly new mothers, in my next post.

Surveys referenced:
—“A*CENSUS: Archival Census and Education Needs Survey in the United States,” American Archivist, 69 (Fall 2006), 329-330.
—Cushing, Amber. “Career Satisfaction of Young Archivists: A Survey of Professional Working Archivists, Age 35 and Younger,” American Archivist, 73 (Fall/Winter 2010).

Self Promotion

Self promotion is hard. It’s something I struggle with. Maybe you’ve found yourself in similar situations:

Do you ever get one of those library-wide emails celebrating someone’s work that make you wonder why some of the great, valuable things you’ve done aren’t acknowledged in this public way? Or read an article about a project getting lots of praise highlighting work comparable to a project you did three years ago that no one praised?

For me, the answer is likely because I didn’t tell them. Let me repeat; I didn’t tell them. I might have communicated a project was over or a goal met, but I didn’t provide context of it’s importance or significance. Or, I did, but didn’t suggest that this is worth other people knowing about too.

Do you find yourself saying things like “We implemented this new tool/service/policy”, “We shifted our strategy and focused on x”, or “We decreased our backlog by 22 percent last year!” Who is the “we” in this situation? While there will certainly be team based projects that deserve the “we”, often these should be “I” statements. My tendency is to use “we” so it sounds like I’m not bragging or taking all the credit. I even do this in job interviews.

You’ve probably heard this before. Men are promoted based on potential, while women are promoted based on past accomplishments. Or, men apply to jobs when they feel they meet 60% of the requirements and women apply when they meet 100%. Many assume that if you do good work and have talent,  it will be recognized and somehow people will just know. It turns out this usually isn’t the case and the thing that can make the greatest impact for women in career advancement or pay increases is self promotion.

Studies show that self promotion can be uncomfortable for women. When women do self promote, they tend to do it in ways that minimizes their contributions. For a while, I didn’t realize that even when I did discuss accomplishments, I did so in a minimizing way. Women are not usually taught to promote ourselves. We live in a social context where modesty norms have discouraged women from promoting themselves. Women who do self promote can encounter a backlash and be cast in a negative light.

So, what can we do?

  • Keep concrete examples of your accomplishments. Bring these to the attention of your supervisors and others in your workplace.
  • Connect your successes with the interests of those in decision-making positions. Show the impact of the work. Discuss your potential for doing more.
  • Communicate with your supervisor that you need their help in highlighting your accomplishments if they don’t already do this for you.
  • Ask for time to write about your work or present at a conference (and block/guard said time on your calendar and then follow through on completing said product)
  • Encourage others to promote their work. This can be a simple “Have you considered sending an email to so and so about this?”
  • Actively promote the work of our colleagues. This can go a long way. It’s been shown that women are more effective at highlighting the accomplishments of others or negotiating for others than themselves.
    • Fun fact: I didn’t tell people at my institution about this blog. Instead, two months after starting a co-worker brought it up at a department staff meeting and encouraged others to read it.
  • Actively promote the work of those you supervise.
  • Nominate people for awards. SAA has them, regional associations have them, your institution likely has them. Most award committees are hurting for more and stronger nominations.

What are some of your experiences in this area? What’s worked for you? What hasn’t?