Tag Archives: Kou Murayama

Women’s Self-Advocacy: Self-Promotion and Violating the “Female Modesty” Norm

Corinne Moss-Racusin

Corinne Moss-Racusin

Some women experience anxiety when required to showcase their accomplishments and skills.
At the same time, they also understand that self-promotion, personal marketing, and “selling yourself” can be required to be achieve recognition and rewards at work.

Gender norms about “modesty” can contribute to women’s discomfort in highlighting their accomplishments.
These implicit rules advocate that women:

  • hold a moderate opinion of their skills,
  • appear humble and avoid pretentiousness,
  • disclaim personal responsibility for success,
  • accept personal responsibility for failure.
Laurie Rudman

Laurie Rudman

In contrast, many American men proactively showcase their skills, and observers see self-promoting men as “competent,” “capable,” and “confident.”
And men who do not advertise their successes generally experience “backlash” like women who self-promote, according to Skidmore’s Corinne Moss-Racusin, Julie Phelan of Langer Research Associates, and Rutgers’ Laurie Rudman.
This suggests that anyone who behaves contrary to expected gender stereotypes may be less favorably evaluated and advance more slowly in careers.

Marie‐Hélène Budworth

Women from cultures that value cooperation, collaboration, and collective accomplishment face limited career advancement if they conform to these norms in self-promoting work cultures, found York University‘s MarieHélène Budworth and Sara L. Mann of University of Guelph.

Deborah A. Small

Deborah A. Small

Likewise, women who adhere to implicit “female modesty” expectations are less likely to ask for promotions and salary increases.
This reluctance contributed to women’s long-term pay disparity according to University of Pennsylvania’s Deborah A. Small, Linda Babcock of Carnegie Mellon University, University of Maryland’s Michele Gelfand and Hilary Gettman.

Peter Glick

Peter Glick

However, if women violate “modesty norms,” they can experience discrimination in hiring, promotion, and wages, reported Rutgers’ Rudman and Peter Glick of Lawrence University and other adverse interpersonal consequences, according to Yale’s Victoria Brescoll.

Mark Zanna

Mark Zanna

People who violate norms typically experience physical arousal including discomfort, anxiety, fear, nervousness, perspiration, increased heart rate, noted University of Waterloo’s Mark Zanna and Joel Cooper of Princeton.

However, if participants attribute this physical activation to “excitement” rather than norm violation, they were more likely to:

  • Engage in self-promotion,
  • Express interest in self-promotion,
  • More effectively describe their accomplishments.
Jessi L Smith

Jessi L Smith

Despite women’s – and some men’s –  career “double bind,” people can consciously communicate more effectively about their successes, demonstrated in studies by Montana State University’s Jessi L. Smith and Meghan Huntoon.

More than 75 women wrote sample essays for a merit-based scholarship valued up to USD $5,000.
One group was composed essays about their own accomplishments whereas another group wrote about another person’s accomplishments.

Andrew Elliott

Andrew Elliott

They also completed Achievement Goal Questionnaire – Revised by University of Rochester Andrew Elliot and Kou Murayama of Tokyo Institute of Technology to evaluate “performance approach” and “performance avoidance.”

The laboratory contained a black box described as a “subliminal noise generator.”
Half the volunteers were told the box produced “inaudible but potentially uncomfortable ultra-high frequency noise,” and they were later asked to evaluate “the effects of extraneous distractions on task performance.”
The remaining participants received no information about the black box.

Victoria Brescoll

Victoria Brescoll

Women who could attribute their experience to the “noise generator” produced higher-quality, more convincing descriptions of their achievements, measured by being awarded significantly higher scholarships prizes.
These women also said they were more interested in the task, which is typically associated with greater intrinsic motivation to showcase personal accomplishments.

In contrast, women who violated the “modesty” norm without reference to the “noise generator” said they:

  • Reported less interest in describing their achievements,
  • Negatively evaluated their performance,
  • Produced lower-quality essays,
  • Were more likely to report fear of failure.

Women perceived as displaying their accomplishments in essays were negatively evaluated by judges, who awarded significantly less to people wrote about their own accomplishments rather than about someone else’s.

Leon Festinger

Leon Festinger

One “workaround” for this self-promotion double bind is to reciprocally advocate for colleagues.
This strategy highlights colleagues’ accomplishments as organizational policies evolve to encourage everyone’s self-promotion.
An example is Google’s self-nomination process for advancement and promotion, coupled with reminder emails to submit self-nominations.

When people redefine showcasing their professional accomplishments as “part of the job,” they tend to perform more effectively and experience less cognitive dissonance.

  • How do you manage the norm against women “bragging” and showcasing their accomplishments?

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Powerful Questions, Anticipated Regret Can Change Behavior

One of the foundations of psychotherapy and executive coaching is the notion that provocative, well-timed, penetrating questions can provoke insight and initiative behavior change.

David Cooperrider

David Cooperrider

One example of a systematic approach to high-impact questioning is Appreciative Inquiry, developed by Case Western’s David Cooperrider and Diana Whitney, and it has been integrated into interpersonal conversations including counseling, coaching, and therapy.

University of Leeds’s Tracy Sandberg and Mark Conner demonstrated the impact of provocative questions when they asked women about anticipated regret if they ignored a preventive health assessment.

Tracy Sandberg

Tracy Sandberg

More than 4,250 women received an invitation for cervical screening and  information leaflet.
A sub-group also received a Theory of Planned Behavior questionnaire developed by University of Massachusetts’s Icek Ajzen.
Another sub-group received both the questionnaire and additional inquiries about their anticipated regrets if they didn’t participate in the screening.

Icek Ajzen

Icek Ajzen

Attendance rates were higher for those who completed the questionnaire about anticipated behavior, and significantly greater for those who also completed the regret questions.
This may be an example of FoMO – Fear of Missing Out, described by University of Essex’s Andrew K. Przybylski and Valerie Gladwell with Kou Murayama of UCLA and University of Rochester.

Andrew Przybylski

Andrew Przybylski

Likewise, “self- prophecy” questions about intention to cheat were associated with reduced cheating among college students, found University of California, Irvine’s Eric Spangenberg and Carl Obermiller of Seattle University.

The question–behavior effect was further demonstrated in a meta-analytic study by Spangenberg with SUNY’s Ioannis Kareklas, Berna Devezer of University of Idaho, and Washington State University’s David E. Sprott.

Eric Spangenberg

Eric Spangenberg

“When you ask a question, it…creates a spring-loaded intention,” and reminds of social norms and past shortcomings, posited Sprott.
It’s that disconnect between what we should do and what we know we have done that motivates us.”

David Sprott

David Sprott

Norm-reinforcing questions are often effective in encouraging proactive behavior aligned with recognized best practices, such as a Public Service Announcement endorsing pre-school vaccination:  Ninety-five percent of parents get their kids vaccinated before kindergarten.
Will you make sure your child is up to date?

William Miller

William Miller

These pointed questions are an “active ingredient” of  Motivational Interviewing developed by University of New Mexico’s William Miller and Stephen Rollnick of Cardiff University, and have been associated with heightened motivation to reduce alcohol and drug consumption.

These finding point to the power of carefully-designed questions to provoke deeper self-reflection and related behavior change.

-*What questions have you used to encourage behavior change?

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