For a woman my age, I’m pretty impressive: I was valedictorian of Georgetown University, I interned for Michelle Obama at the White House, I’m a Fulbright Fellow, I’ve worked at the UN, and now I run a nationally ranked women’s program at a leading tech company.
But, I’d never ever say that sentence aloud. Even writing it makes me cringe.
For too many women like me, humility is social currency. We’ve been trained to let our accomplishments speak for themselves. Fortunately, working at HubSpot, that isn’t a liability for me. In fact, humility is one of the five core attributes the company demands from employees. But we noticed that our employees–particularly female employees–were more likely to attribute their accomplishments to the collective efforts of their colleagues rather than acknowledging the important roles they each play individually. So we got together and decided to do something about it–namely, encourage women to “humblebrag” for each other.
Why Women’s Accomplishments Go Unnoticed
For years, research has borne out the pattern we’d begun noticing. Not only are women typically reluctant to take credit for their own contributions when they’re working on teams, but the odds are already stacked against them thanks to gender bias. Last year a Harvard researcher discovered that women tend to get less credit for their collaborative work, period–no matter whether they tout their efforts or not.
Allyson Downey, founder of the parenting site weeSpring, gave us an idea for tackling this issue when she came to speak at HubSpot. She encouraged women to track their weekly accomplishments in a simple document. The only problem, we discovered, is that it still places the onus on the women to self-promote.
So we thought to ourselves, if our women are doing incredibly innovative things for the business, and sharing this publicly is essential for growing their careers, how could we praise them without forcing them to boast? Our answer: Get their coworkers to do it for them.
Women who may be reluctant to talk about their own accomplishments often have no problem singing the praises of their friends and colleagues. With that in mind, here are four ways we’ve come up with to get women at HubSpot to celebrate one another’s hard work.
1. Host A LinkedIn Recommendation-Writing Night
When was the last time you set aside time to write someone a LinkedIn recommendation? Exactly.
But the truth is that recommendations are crucial. Short reviews from credible references, highlighting specific skills and strengths, can pique recruiters’ attention and help managers see who’s due for a promotion. That’s why we hosted a hack night, dedicating an hour toward the end of the day to teach employees how to write the perfect LinkedIn recommendation.
We encouraged women in particular to attend–and challenged them to write at least five for their female team members. By the end of the hour, we’d written over 100.
2. Give Slack Shout-Outs
It’s nice to get a personal email from your boss acknowledging a job well done. But as the saying goes, “If a tree falls in a forest and no one hears it, does it make a sound?” Yes, positive one-on-one feedback matters, but touting female employees’ big wins in public matters even more.
When a woman on our product team gets promoted or does something of note, we announce it on Slack and give her a shout-out. It’s a simple but effective way to give that woman the visibility she deserves and to ensure that her impact is felt across the organization.
3. Recognize A Wonder Woman Of The Week
Recognition doesn’t have to come from the top down. I send a biweekly email newsletter to over 500 employees enrolled in our women’s employee resource group. One day, I decided to start adding a section called “Wonder Woman of the Week,” profiling one woman who’s been doing great lately.
I include a brief bio, attach a photo, and reach out to two of her direct team members for short quotes about her and her work. This one-paragraph highlight reel isn’t hard to put together, and it helps create a culture of calling out top female performers, puts a face to their names (or email addresses), and fosters a larger community of support.
If your company has some sort of internal newsletter or team-wide email that goes out at a regular cadence, consider adding a similar section. You’d be surprised how honored women are to be selected for this peer-nominated distinction–and how willing and hungry people are to commend their colleagues.
4. Host A Wikipedia “Edit-A-Thon”
While we like to brag about the accomplishments of HubSpot’s female employees, we also recognize that women outside our four walls are also doing amazing things that go unrecognized. Fewer than 17% of Wikipedia’s biographical entries are of women, and the visibility numbers are pretty dismal in technology in particular.
So in an attempt to make information about up-and-coming women in tech more available to Wikipedia’s 60 million daily visitors, we organized an “Add the Women Back Edit-a-Thon.” Attendees got a crash course in how to write Wikipedia entries, then penned new ones for female engineers, designers, and product managers. Some contributors even shared their articles on Twitter with the women they’d profiled, many of whom were grateful for our efforts.
hah 140 characters is limiting-our dev team organized a night to add female prod. leaders to Wikipedia to share #womenintech impact!
— Hannah Fleishman (@hbfleishman) October 5, 2016
— Chelsea Bathurst (@chebathurst) October 4, 2016
Although we have to keep encouraging women to share their successes and own their accomplishments, the burden shouldn’t rest solely on women to self-promote their way to the top.
The more creative we get about how to support and celebrate women in the workplace, particularly in fields where we’re underrepresented, the more we can guarantee we’re writing women into history–while we’re still busy shaping it.
Caroline Cotto is the culture content creator at HubSpot, where she focuses on employer branding, inbound recruiting, and diversity & inclusion, specifically as head of the Women@HubSpot employee resource group.