How Women Can Develop — and Promote — Their Personal Brand

We all know developing a personal brand is valuable, since a strong reputation can put you on the radar for exciting career opportunities. When your true talents are understood, it’s far more likely you’ll be tapped for relevant and interesting assignments — and it helps you stand out in a field of competitors. Research by Sylvia Ann Hewlett at the Center for Talent Innovation shows that cultivating your personal brandis one of the best ways to attract a sponsor — and professionals with sponsors are 23% more likely than their peers to be promoted. Your brand is also a powerful hedge against professional misfortune. If there are layoffs or cutbacks at your company, being recognized in your field makes it far more likely that you’ll be snapped up quickly by another firm.

But personal branding has some unique challenges for female professionals. Research has repeatedly shown that women are subject to a phenomenon known as the “likability conundrum.” Gender norms presume that women should be agreeable, warm, and nurturing, and when they violate these norms — such as when they step up to make a tough decision, share a strong opinion, or promote themselves — they’re often penalized for that behavior in a way that men wouldn’t be. We can all think of examples of women who have been publicly criticized for being “too aggressive” or labeled an “ice queen” or the “b-word.”

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