Why men are better at self promotion than women by Katy Mousinho

By Guest Contributor Katy Mousinho

Co-Author of Wonder Women, Katy Mousinho, explains why men are better than women at self promoting.

There’s an art to self-promotion. Too much and you’re a braggart, too little and you’re left wondering why less competent people keep getting promoted above you.  Folk wisdom tells us that men are better at self-promotion than women, which has contributed to disparities in pay and the gender imbalance in senior positions.

This was certainly a topic of conversation amongst many of the women we interviewed for our book Wonder Women

“Arguably men take more risks. There is also more tolerance of men making mistakes, but maybe they’re just better at how they present them. If you start in a position of self-doubt, there’s a danger you present mistakes as mistakes rather than bold bets that didn’t quite come off.”

says Kate Thornton, who spent over 20 years of her career at British Airways in a variety of sales, commercial and customer roles, both overseas and in the UK. More recently, she was Chief Customer Officer at Simplyhealth and is now CCO at SES Water. 

A Harvard Business School study looked to understand how individuals described their own performance in self assessments.  They found that women tended to describe their performance in tests lower than men did, despite the fact that both groups had the same average test scores.

The spread was significant – women on average gave themselves 46 out of 100, while men scored themselves 61. These figures in themselves are not that surprising, but what is surprising is the fact that the women in the study still underscored themselves (and indeed, men overscored themselves) despite being aware of how they had actually performed and that their employer would use their self-assessment scores when assessing promotion and pay-levels.


The research suggests that simply telling women how well they have performed won’t be enough to encourage them to self-promote; less focus on self-assessment and adopting more objective performance metrics might be a better solution.  Leadership teams and HR could do much to help by acknowledging and promoting the achievements of their female staff, women (and men) can help other women by giving them the praise they deserve (telling them not to be so modest!), women themselves should stand up and be proud of their achievements – the big and the small ones. 


KATY MOUSINHO is now enjoying a life of ‘freedom and flexibility’, having forsaken the world of full-time working to pursue multiple activities including writing, health and fitness, travel and helping out small businesses with their brand and marketing strategy. As former managing Director of The Value Engineers and with 30 years’ experience in insight and brand strategy, she has gained a broad perspective on the world of consumers and brand, having worked with a diverse range of clients across categories and countries.  

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/katy-mousinho-98b6411

GILES LURY is a VW Beetle-driving, Lego watch-wearing Disney-loving, Chelsea supporting father of five who also happens to be a director of brand consultancy at The Value Engineers and author of The Prisoner and the Penguin, How Coca-Cola Took Over the World, and Inspiring Innovation

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/giles-lury-2646638


Website: https://www.wonderwomen-marketing.com/

Suggested Reading

Every marketer knows the stories of Lord Lever and Steve Jobs, has probably read AI Ries and Jack Trout, and seen the works of Bill Bernbach and John Hegarty. What’s interesting about these ‘Masters of Marketing’ is that they are all men. Katy Mousinho’s and Giles Lury’s Wonder Women tells the stories of some of the women who have had a tremendous influence on the marketing industry, like Brownie Wise, who transformed Tupperware and Mary Wells Lawrence, who founded advertising agency Wells, Rich, Greene.  

There are also interviews with Edwina Dunn OBE – the co-founder of Dunnhumby and the data behind the Tesco Clubcard; Helle Muller Peterson – Senior Vice President, Arla Foods Denmark and previously the only female country CEO in Carlsberg, plus many more. Mousinho and Lury pull together their findings, not only to celebrate their success, but to provide insights for the future of marketing and the great marketers, women and men, to come. 

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