Each month, a member of the Business Women’s Forum Steering Committee writes a guest article related to their experience and expertise as a woman in business. This month’s article was written by Jennifer Goodwin, Director of Marketing at the SLC Downtown Northwestern Mutual Office.

In my company, we have a Women’s Field Association which allows for women in similar positions across the nation to connect, learn and share tips and tricks. In a meeting a few weeks ago, the group facilitator asked for anyone who thinks they are doing a good job to raise their hand. I was the ONLY person who raised their hand. At first, I was mortified! I mean, who is so full of themselves that they blatantly offer to an entire group that they are doing a good job?!? Then, after a split second of mortification, it rapidly turned to outrage. I could not believe that out of this group of highly intelligent, capable and successful women, only one hand was raised. Every single woman in that meeting should have been raising the roof with both hands high up in the sky. It made me think…why do women shy away from claiming their achievements?  

I reached for a book I read recently which brought me a lot of insight and has, essentially, changed my life: How Women Rise, by Sally Helgesen and Marshall Goldsmith. The book walks readers through a series of habits — found through research conducted by Sally and Marshall — that hold women back from rising in their careers. The first habit mentioned is, “Reluctance to Claim Your Achievements.” It just so happens that my reaction and experience mentioned above followed quite closely what the book explains as to why we keep quiet in the first place.  

I don’t want to be thought of as a blowhard, pompous jerk. 

Maybe other women in the meeting thought I was being a blowhard, pompous jerk? Maybe they thought I recently got a promotion which prompted me to raise my hand? I am not sure. And I am not a mind reader, so will probably never know. However, I believe I am simply a self-aware woman and know I am doing a good job. I mean, if you don’t think you are doing a good job, why would anyone else think you are? And why would anyone else want to go out of their way to sing your praises if you can’t at least whistle your own?  

As women, we have been conditioned to believe that we need to have certain characteristics and behave accordingly. We are “supposed” to be tender and self-effacing, accept compliments with a blush and instant denial of said compliment, and attribute any accomplishments to others who helped. Some of these characteristics are innate, but several are learned and have been the social contract we have all subconsciously abided by throughout the years. These may have even led us to get to where we are today.  

However, to truly rise to the level of our potential, we are required to act boldly. I am sure we have all read stories about some of the most amazing women in history…go ahead, recall one of these stories right now. Did these women’s stories get passed along over decades, or even centuries, because they kept quiet and waited for someone to notice their hard work? NO! These women made bold moves and, in turn, made an impact on how we enjoy life today.  

Now, this doesn’t give us permission to all be blowhard, pompous jerks and annoy everyone around us and become “that person” in the office. Women tend to live with an either/or mentality; I am either a shameless self-promoter or I am a modest, self-effacing martyr working tirelessly at my job without recognition. Now, there is a lot of gray area between those things. I am simply suggesting that we, as women, must be proactive in speaking up for ourselves and sharing our accomplishments respectfully and with pride. We deserve to do so without the fear of being thought of differently by our peers and leaders.  

The art of sharing your achievements 

It is hard to break a habit, trust me…I know. I will catch myself on a regular basis shrinking my achievements, not claiming my own accomplishments, and brushing off compliments instead of simply saying, “thank you.” However, it is one of the habits we must break to fulfill our potential! As mentioned in How Women Rise, “Speaking up about what you contribute and detailing why you’re qualified does not make you self-centered or self-serving. It sends a signal that you’re ready to rise.”

We women tend to utilize the word “we” when sharing our accomplishments. Something as small as upgrading the word to “I” is a great first step in breaking the habit. (i.e., Instead of “we created the spreadsheet and updated the formulas to maximize the impact”, try, “I created the spreadsheet and updated the formulas to maximize the impact.” Doesn’t that just sound and feel better?)  

Something else that has helped me remain aware of my accomplishments is an exercise I learned from one of my coaches. This exercise is called the “Friday Ritual.” Every Friday, I have time set aside in my calendar to spend at least 30 minutes typing out on my OneNote what I have accomplished for the week and what I learned, and to outline my priorities for the following week. Then, I complete a burnout checkup and enjoy some free writing to journal what is on my mind. This exercise has proven to be prudent in my growth and development and keeps me keen on all that I have truly accomplished. (It is also super helpful when it is time for my quarterly and annual reviews.)  

So, the next time someone asks you to raise your hand if you think you are doing a good job, I want you to throw that hand up with confidence.  

About Jennifer Goodwin

Jennifer Goodwin graduated from the University of Utah with a bachelor’s Degree in Psychology. As Director of Marketing at the SLC Downtown Northwestern Mutual Office, Jennifer utilizes her creativity and genuine desire to serve others to help grow the firm. She thrives on creating strategies and efficiencies in order to coordinate continuity throughout all Northwestern Mutual offices in the state of Utah. Jennifer is a fervent advocate of social responsibility and of women uplifting each other and strives daily to integrate these values into the workplace. She has a natural curiosity for life and a desire to do and know everything, which allows her to relish in many hobbies. Outside of work you can find Jennifer rocking out at a concert, in the audience of a Broadway Musical, fishing, reading, listening to true crime podcasts, playing her guitar, bowling, gardening or singing.