If I asked you to list a famous man in STEM throughout history, it probably wouldn’t take you too long to come up with a name. Albert Einstein, Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin are all pretty common men we’ve learned about in school. And I know if I thought about it more, I could probably list another five.
If I asked you to name a famous woman in STEM throughout history, there might be some hesitancy. Ada Lovelace and Marie Curie might come up, but for the average person it would probably take a Google search to think of another five names.
This isn’t a coincidence. Women’s contributions, both throughout history and in the workplace, tend to get lost and overshadowed by the credit we give to men. A 2015 study showed that when women were partnered with men (or in a group that had men in it), women “gave more credit to their male teammates and took less credit themselves.” This phenomenon didn’t happen if they were in a group of all women.
When we don’t take credit for the work we’ve done, or try to downplay our contributions, we give away our power in the workplace. The contributions we make at work directly correlate to promotions, salary increases, projects we work on, and more.
Why do women hesitate to take credit?
Unfortunately, we are socialized to downplay what we do. We don’t want to be seen as braggy or that we’re not a team player, so it’s easier to pass of the credit to a partner or team. Women are also taught to be group participants and can feel uncomfortable talking about their achievements in a collaborative project.
Bias is also a huge factor. There are certain topics or actions that we assume men are better at doing, so we’ll unconsciously lean towards that stereotype. Assumptions like men make better leaders or are smarter in certain subjects (like math or science) can lead us to giving credit where credit is not due.
What can we do to promote ourselves and other women?
First, it’s important for us to help each other. If you are in a mixed group and see a woman coworker not receiving proper credit, speak up. Acknowledge their contributions and ensure that everyone else in the group understands them too.
Second, like we talk about in our #IamRemarkable workshops, it’s not bragging if it’s based on facts. If you find it hard to take credit on what you’re doing, stop and take inventory of actual things you have done within a project. Don’t feel like you need to fluff up your contributions, just write down the straight facts of what you have done. These are actionable, real things you have done and don’t have to feel guilty talking about.
How can we take credit effectively?
If you find yourself saying any of these phrases, try saying these new phrases instead:
Instead of saying:
|“I have a great team.”||“I’m proud of my role in this project and the results we’ve achieved.”|
|“It was a team effort. ”||“It’s great that our client was happy with my work. I worked hard with my team to make this project a success.”|
|“It was nothing/It wasn’t a big deal”||“I’m happy my input was helpful.”|
|“We all played a part.”||“I’m proud of the part I played.”|
|(As a leader) “It wasn’t me, it was my team.”||“I’m proud of my leadership skills in this project. Myself and my team did great.”|
When in doubt, just say “Thank you!” or “I’m proud of my work.”
It is important that we fight against these stereotypes and hesitations. If we want to see real change, it has to start with us. We must fight against feeling uncomfortable and work on being proud of our accomplishments and contributions. Your story could be what helps another woman succeed or encourage a woman to take the leap.
You deserve credit for all of the things you’ve done. Go out there and make sure you get it.