Speak Up, Stand Out: How Women Can Advocate Professionally

From boardrooms to cubicles, women navigating the professional landscape have delicately danced between advocacy and restraint. In fact, 73% of women believe that those who self-advocate are negatively perceived.

Yet, as gender biases persist and glass ceilings remain stubbornly intact, the art of professional advocacy becomes not just a skill but a vital tool for success. In this blog, we’ll explore the strategies, insights, and experiences that empower women to navigate the complexities of the workplace and advocate professionally. 

How to Advocate Professionally 

1. Have a Specific Ask

Advocating for yourself often means scheduling a meeting to talk to your direct supervisor on one specific topic. You can’t advocate for yourself if you are unclear about what you want. Consider the career goals you’d like to achieve and offer examples of conferences, stretch opportunities, or other professional development support they can respond to with a definite answer.

Equally important to consider is your “no list,” consisting of everything you want to avoid at work. Promotions and salary increases can come with unwanted responsibilities, so having your “no list” before the meeting will help you better navigate the conversation. 

2. Provide Evidence 

Evidence is a cornerstone of self-advocacy. Promote your achievements and highlight your success stories to support your request. It is harder for someone to turn you down when they know how vital your impact was for the organization. 

3. Develop Your Confidence

Build your executive presence before the meeting to solidify your professional brand as a thought leader. It includes your physical posture, how you communicate, and the clothes you wear. Plus, imposter syndrome loves to creep in when you advocate for what you need and deserve.

Write positive affirmations around your request and visualize what it will be like when you receive it. The more positive an image you build, the less nagging thoughts can pull you away from achieving your goals. 

4. Identify Sponsors and Supporters

Advocating for your aspirations can be a team sport. Find the people in your office who know your work well and will put in a good word for you with upper management. They can help nudge things along from behind the scenes. 

5. “No” Isn’t Final

If your request is rejected, it does not necessarily mean it will never happen. Your supervisor is influenced by the budget, time, and resources to decide. Promotions or salary increases take more effort to approve than one-off expenses like attending conferences. 

Ask plenty of questions to understand why it was rejected and seek feedback to identify growth areas. You can always build up your skills and experience while you wait for things to fall into place. 

During negotiations, consult with HR if issues, such as discrimination, retaliation, or a lack of respect, hinder your professional growth. 

6. Follow-up

Schedule follow-up meetings or email check-ins to keep your request at the top of their mind. Don’t be afraid to poke them multiple times to make things happen. Your continued success is worth someone being slightly annoyed for a short time. 

Following up after you receive your promotion, salary increase, stretch opportunity, etc., is a chance to share your gratitude. We all need a community of support to help us reach our next level. 

Email Example of Advocacy at Work

“Hello [Name],

I wanted to discuss my performance and career trajectory with you. Over the past [time], I’ve dedicated myself to [insert specific accomplishments, projects, or initiatives you’ve led or contributed to]. I believe my contributions had a significant impact on [mention goals, metrics, or outcomes achieved by your efforts]. 

In light of my achievements and ongoing commitment to excellence, I’m excited to express my interest in exploring advancement within [the company]. I believe I have the skills, experience, and dedication necessary to take on [mention the desired position or level] and contribute to the success of our team.

I look forward to the opportunity to discuss my potential for advancement within [company].

Best, 

[Your Name]”

As we reflect on the power of speaking up and standing out, let us celebrate our achievements, amplify our voices, and uplift one another as we navigate the complexities of the professional world. Together, we can create a future where women dream, lead, and raise future generations. Speak up, stand out, and pave the way for a more inclusive, equitable, and empowered workplace for all!

If you want to continue growing as a leader, you can do it with the support of industry-leading women worldwide. No matter what field, the International Association of Women brings professionals together to share their tips and empower each other to reach new heights. Join our community today and find mentors, business resources, weekly webinars, networking events, and more!

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