Real Accomplishments like Real Beauty

The Dove Real Beauty Sketches have hit a chord with people.  In less than two weeks, the video on YouTube has more than 28 million views, 92,000 likes, and 2,000 comments and numerous articles lauding or decrying the video.  For those who have yet to come across this campaign the video show a police sketch artist creating two versions of various women’s sketches.  The first version dictated by the description provide by the woman herself.  The second dictated by strangers who recently met the woman.  Invariable, the sketch created with the descriptions of strangers is more flattering across the board.  That’s no shock to most women.  Many of us are aware that we are our own worse critics yet the reminding of us of this lesson is very important.

Expert vs. Experienced

I find the same is true not only regarding physical beauty but also in business achievement.  This is so prevalent that in a fairly new web site established to help promote women as experts to the media called The Women’s Room needed to include a very telling caveat.

We also find that a lot of women who by any objective standard are experts, are putting themselves down as “experienced”, out of a wish not to blow their own trumpet. To clear things up, we’re giving you a definition of sorts. 

We have the two categories, because we want to change the perception of lived experience as somehow lesser than expertise. It’s not. It provides a valid viewpoint, and we think the media should speak to people who have experienced something as well as studied it – without acting like their experience is nothing more than anecdotal. 

As for who is an expert, well, Malcolm Gladwell says that an expert is someone with 10,000 hours’ experience in something. If we’re talking working days, that’s about 4-5 years. If we’re talking lived experience, that’s just over a year. So many more of you are experts than you think – and should sign up as such!

Downplaying Our Work Contributions

I encounter this same phenomenon when I work with clients on developing the business argument of why she deserves the higher end of the job’s pay range.  We start the process by having the client share one of the business accomplishment she is most proud.  Typically she starts with words like:

  • I assisted
  • I supported
  • I contributed to
  • I was part of a group

All of these expressions take away the personal contribution and demotes her contribution to a lower level than her peers.   It takes many attempts of drawing out the actual details of the accomplishment to typically find the individual woman has:

  • Developed a new best practice for the company
  • Contributed at a level far above her title
  • Directly affected the company’s profits in a positive manner

It is understandable that many women struggle to toot their own horns in the business world yet it is necessary to land the job, get paid appropriately, and to get well deserved promotions.  Perhaps women can take a page from the Dove Real Beauty experiment and talk to managers and colleagues about her accomplishments.  We may be shocked at how truly accomplished  others consider us.