Today I attended a women in leadership conference at my university. It was a fantastic day of both learning from some very accomplished women in academia and talking with others recognizing we share some common characteristics when it comes to how we operate as women leaders.
I took a lot away from today. Women are less likely to own their success. We are more likely to downplay accomplishments. Further, we are less likely to apply for jobs if we do not feel we meet the requirements 100% where men will apply for a job when they only meet 50% of requirements. I gave real thought to what I want to do in academic leadership. I thought deeply about work/life satisfaction.
But, there was one take away that fit me like a glove and something I’ve decided could be detrimental to the future I want to make in academic leadership. I am not very good about owning success. I am terrible at taking credit for things I’ve accomplished. Anytime someone points out things I’ve done I 100% of the time talk about the people who opened doors for me. I am not exaggerating when I say I doubt I’ve even uttered the words, “I’m successful.” I am incredibly uncomfortable talking about the time and energy I’ve devoted to my career and the outcomes I’ve had.
Today, I realized that it is ok to claim my success. Yes, I’ve been very, very fortunate to have amazing mentors. I’ve had incredible opportunities presented to me. I have a fantastic support system. But, today I recognized that I walked through the doors and I have worked very hard to get to where I am. It was not luck. It was not chance. I intentionally worked toward my success.
I’m a numbers person and three statistics that were presented today really made me think about this idea of owning success.
.3 percent of Native Americans hold a PhD
2 percent of the US population hold a PhD
Only 30 percent of tenured professors are women
When I look at those stats I realize that I need to own my success not just for me, but for the young women I am committed to mentoring. I need to model confidence. I need to model that it is ok to share about the long road of work it took to get to where I am.
I’ll still struggle with this. Even now, I read this and think, “UGH, I sound like such a big head. What an ego.”
But, I look at the picture at the top of this post and know that I owe it to my students. They need to hear about our stories and know our successes to strive for their own. Until today, I’d never thought about how downplaying my success perpetuates a cycle.
So, from now on I will still recognize the beautiful collaborations I work with, but I will also acknowledge my own hard work. And, by writing it down and making it public it makes it more likely I will follow through.