As a woman, I have often struggled with the desire to promote my work and market myself with the desire to be “liked,” and more importantly, to be recognized and rewarded for the quality of my work.  Can you relate? 
Yet, it’s been shown that cultivating a personal brand is the best way to attract a sponsor. And professionals with sponsors are 23% more likely to be promoted. So, self-promotion isn’t Narcissus lost in the revelry of his reflection; it is instead a necessary tool in your career arsenal. This is true for both men and women—but particularly women.
However, research confirms that successful women are penalized in the workplace for not behaving according to gender norms. Although women and men can be viewed as equally competent, women receive lower likeability scores if they’re associated with high-profile speeches, speaking, and personal branding. So be you, boo! Just be you less.
So how do we navigate these very real fears and promote our work and personal brands anyway?
I posed that very question to some highly visible women in positions of leadership. Here’s what they had to say:

1.  Verbalize your accomplishments

“Take the time to map out how you define success for your personal brand, then find the balance between being your full self and being ‘well-liked.’”
Michelle Carnahan, President, Thirty Madison 
Carnahan stresses that it’s important to feel comfortable bringing your full self to work and advocating for your accomplishments so that others know about your “big wins.” Doing this is easier when you’ve built a network inside and outside of work that she describes as “a squad of emotional and intellectual supporters.” She takes her advice to heart, belonging to multiple “squads” that help push her forward to “be a better leader.”

2.  Build a trusted brand

“Be the brand that people can like.”
Barbara Ryan, Board Member at MiNK Therapeutics and Founder of Fabulous Pharma Females
Being liked and promoting a brand are not mutually exclusive. “Don’t be afraid to take the floor with your suggestions, ideas, and opinions, but to do so in a collaborative way focused on solutions and results,” says Ryan, who believes that content is key to building a brand. 
As a former sell-side analyst, Barbara had a lot of content and visibility for her subject matter expertise. Today, she advises the C-suites of emerging biotech companies on strategy, financings, investor relations, and strategic communications. “Having a campaign behind your aspirations and asking others to help you achieve your goals is critical,” says Ryan, who notes that part of that campaign can be advocating and mentoring others in order to build relationships and trust. “Have the courage to be a leader.” 

 3.  Network

“You need more than just your manager to know what you’re doing and where you want to go.”
Cristina Santos, Senior Vice President, Head of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Capital Group
Santos believes that intentional and strategic networking can be particularly helpful for women overcoming their fears around self-promotion. She suggests specifically mapping out who would be critical to your success and then initiating one-on-one conversations where you can share with a regular cadence. “It’ll feel less like self-promotion, and over time, you’ll establish a team of people that know who you are, can speak to the quality of your work, and sing your praises for you.”
It seems to me that the antidote to the fear of being visible is, in fact, to be more visible! The more women navigate those internal (albeit very real) fears, the better they are able to build a community of supporters and become a trusted and (dare I say) well-liked brand. Sure, it takes courage, but courage is just having fear and taking action anyway. With a little courage and a lot of support from fellow women and allies, more women can step into their rightful place in the spotlight!