Women and the Curse of Understating Accomplishments

Devika Das

At a networking event in Hong Kong, I was asked what I do. My answer instinctively was, “Not much.”

Not much” is far from the truth.

I am accomplished in my field as a coach in psychodynamic executive coaching, in the process of writing my first book, bringing up two wonderful women-to-be, and yet for some reason, my first response was to say not much. Luckily a friend and fellow INSEADer came to rescue (me from myself) and said, “That is not true.” Yes, it was not true and thank you, Martin Garnes, for showing me that I need to reflect on how I responded.

I should have known better than this.

I specialised in ‘Executive presence’ and wrote my thesis at INSEAD on it. The instincts of being an introverted woman kicked in. Through my research, I also know that presence is evolving and I will always be work in progress.

Empirical data show that women often under-communicate their accomplishments, and it can impede their career progress. 

Here are some tips on how to communicate success from me (though on some days I need to take a dose of my own medicine).

While projecting accomplishments as an executive, use the four categories of arguments:

1. Quantify impact – use numbers where ever you can.

2. Talk about coaching and mentoring teams.

3. Show being creative – products and processes.

4. Include an existential map of position or designation and the time in the organisation.

Here are top three communication strategies for women to communicate accomplishments confidently:

1. Start strong  – Build credibility quickly. Don’t wait for work to speak for itself. Let the performance show later but start with building credibility.

2. Stay succinct: Keep is short and sweet. Make clear and direct statements.

3. Sell your ideas in you own signature voice and let people see the vision of the future. Use gestures to communicate ideas.

4. Project warmth by building trust and inspiring others.

Remember there is no heroism in making yourself small or understating your accomplishments!


This blog was originally published on Core Executive Presence here

Speaker, trainer, author and C-suite coach. Devika Das is the Founder and CEO of CORE Executive Presence

Follow her on Twitter, Instagram or LinkedIn, and read her testimonial on In the Know here