Wrestling with Authenticity 2.0 And Rants About Women

by Shonali Burke on September 14, 2010

A colleague and I recently discussed women’s self-promotion styles compared to men. Then Clay Shirky’s blog post “A Rant About Women” came up, along with his thought-provoking remarks on the subject. His comments also sharpened my own reflections that I had resisted admitting Reflection "I"
Photo credit : Reflections I, Creative Commons by VisualAge

I wish Clay Shirky’s rant from earlier this year contradicted my own observations i.e. that women often threaten their own success by failing to promote themselves effectively or by avoiding that axiom “fake it till you make it.” Clay’s post said this “fake it till you make it” trait is one men seem to exercise with ease and that women would do well to exercise more.

I look forward to when he’ll discuss his rant (and the consequences from it) next week at the WomenWhoTech Telesummit.

Owning up to ‘authenticity 2.0
Even though my observations of women in many cases, especially those here at Women Grow Business, differ from Shirky’s premise – some of them also resonate.

I know for sure I could be more diligent at promoting great women (and men too!), at promoting myself, at going after certain speaker submission goals (quick aside – Susan Mernit shared a great, inclusive speaking calendar that’s tech and business centric).

How are your promotion skills (for self, others)? Honestly I’d like to think my strengths are solid yet I can name plenty of instances when I suppressed self-advocacy to avoid criticism or vulnerability – recently.

A woman thing?
It can be said that avoiding vulnerability is ok and human v. just “a woman thing.” But could someone (or their magic wand) just share their magical always-a-confident-elegant-self-promoting-dynamo potion? I’m ready to consume…

This isn’t something that’s savory to admit out loud. But if my self-leadership is to further benefit the life it leads and those impacted by it, then I better own up to this “authenticity 2.0” age we live in and admit Clay Shirky’s rant still hits home.

Be more like men?
As Clay also admitted toward the end of his rant, he doesn’t know the solution.

That makes two of us.

Should we women assert self-promotion more like men? Should we teach young women those “fake it till you make it” self-promotion mentalities to better land competitive jobs? Clay Shirky thinks so and as of this writing, I give it a strong maybe.

From the vantage point of preserving authenticity, one part of me resists telling us women to model men’s behavior.

“Let our true selves ring free! Self-promote as you will (or not).” … says that inner Joan of Arc. Yet it is matched by an inner devil’s advocate that says: “Girl, you’re kiddin’ yourself. You gotta up your game and promote more like a bandit.”

Do your inner Joans of Arc and devilish advocates wrestle with each other too? It’s unclear what teachable and generational solutions are to what is a very sensitive appraisal of our gender. There are many nuances, variables, and layers to this topic (in and beyond sexism) that Clay and many others have addressed.

How often does this topic come up in your communities?
What’s your perspective? Do you believe it is an over addressed subject or one that could be discussed more openly?

A summarized approach that’s renewing my commitment to diligently self-promote (with ideally some grace too!):

  • commit to being one’s best advocate;
  • assert a “public speech 2.0” mentality in business and personal development. Are the great stories and strengths of your business and your expertise ready for engagement i.e. for stage delivery (a speech), a persuasive conversation (a sales dynamic or job interview), and social networks (your online community)?
  • seek out strong and compelling forums (that can also be promotional environments) which engage women, like for starters, Women Grow Biz(!) and WomenWhoTech Telesummit. As mentioned Clay takes the rant to the summit on 9/15th. Full disclosure – I’m on WomenWhoTech’s advisory committee but have much respect for the incredible line-up that includes TechCrunch CEO Heather Harde and 30+ other fabulous women in tech and social media.

What’s your approach to consistent habits of promotion (for self and others)?

More from Women Grow Business:

Cited by ForbesWoman as one of 30 women entrepreneurs to follow on Twitter, Jill Foster is principal of Live Your Talk and founding editor of Women Grow Business. She teaches creatives, community builders, and entrepreneurs to be distinct communicators online through social media and offline through public speech. A social tech enthusiast, she co-founded DC Media Makers, a peer learning community that teaches digital technology. In 2009, Jill won the Apps for Democracy Social Citizen Award for a co-produced project on how technology could help Washington, DC neighborhoods.

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