Tag Archives: Kou Murayama

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

Corinne Moss-Racusin

Corinne Moss-Racusin

Many women experience anxiety when required to showcase their accomplishments and skills, yet many in the U.S. have repeatedly heard that self-promotion, personal marketing, and “selling yourself” are required to be recognized and rewarded at work.

Gender norms about “modesty” contribute to women’s discomfort in highlighting their accomplishments.
These unspoken rules include holding a moderate opinion of one’s skills, lacking pretentiousness, minimizing responsibility for success, and accepting responsibility for failure.

Laurie Rudman

Laurie Rudman

In contrast, many American men freely share their skills, which leads others to see them as “competent,” “capable,” and “confident.”
In fact, this norm is associated with “backlash” against men who adopt the “modesty” norm and do not advertise their successes, according to Skidmore’s Corinne Moss-Racusin, Julie Phelan of Langer Research Associates, and Rutgers’ Laurie Rudman.

Women from cultures that value cooperation, collaboration, and collective accomplishment over individual recognition have even greater challenges adopting local career advancement strategies.

Marie‐Hélène Budworth

Marie‐Hélène Budworth

Yet, conforming to these norms limits women’s career advancement, found York University‘s MarieHélène Budworth and Sara L. Mann of University of Guelph.

Deborah A. Small

Deborah A. Small

Women who adhere to implicit “female modesty” expectations experience this career handicap because they are less likely to ask for promotions and raises.
This reluctance to ask contributed to women’s long-term pay disparity in research by 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.
In addition, they can also experience other adverse interpersonal consequences, noted Yale’s Victoria Brescoll.

Mark Zanna

Mark Zanna

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

However, if women attribute this physical activation to something other than the norm violation, they were more likely to:

Jessi L Smith

Jessi L Smith

Despite women’s career “double bind,” targeted interventions can help women to communicate more effectively about their successes, noted 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 – up to USD $1,000 more.
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 were:

  • Less interested in describing their achievements,
  • Negatively evaluated their performance,
  • Produced lower-quality essays,
  • More likely to fear failure 
    than when they advocated for another woman.

Women perceived as displaying their accomplishments in essays were negatively evaluated by judges, who “awarded” an average of USD $1,500 less to people wrote about their own accomplishments rather than about someone else’s.

Leon Festinger

Leon Festinger

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

When women reconstrue self-promotion, “selling” and “marketing” professional accomplishments as “part of the job,” they tend to experience less cognitive dissonance and perform more effectively when showcasing their capabilities.

  • 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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