Why don’t women promote themselves?

Wharton’s Judd Kessler co-authored a study, “The Gender Gap in Self-Promotion,” which measured confidence and self-promotion among women about their work performance.

In a new study, “The Gender Gap in Self-Promotion,” researchers from Wharton and Harvard find when it comes to self-promotion, women systematically rate themselves lower than men do, even when their work is objectively better. 

A woman and a man sitting side by side in an office working on laptops, she is holding an oversized "thought bubble" sign over her head and smiling

The workplace divide along gender lines is nothing new. Women earning 85% of what men make for the same job is a common point of reference in the conversation around the wage gap. Even the recent Oscars drew attention for the lack of female directors among its nominees, a Hollywood reflection of the gender disparity that persists in real life. The findings by Judd Kessler, Wharton professor of business economics and public policy, and Christine Exley, business administration professor at Harvard Business School, are worrisome because they indicate an inherent unfairness in how women may be perceived in the labor market. The tendency for women to undervalue themselves — whether in a formal performance review, a job interview, a staff meeting or a casual question about last week’s project — makes it more difficult to achieve parity and close the gender gap in the workplace.

“Our research suggests that hiring managers and employers should think twice before relying on subjective self-assessments to determine the performance of applicants or employees,” Kessler says. “The work also points to the potential benefits of relying on objective performance measures rather than self-assessments.”

In their study, “The Gender Gap in Self-Promotion,” the professors conducted a series of experiments to measure self-promotion. 

Read more at Knowledge@Wharton.