Taking Credit Where Credit’s Due

mhAL3YeWomen do good work, but too often you’d never know it. Why?

In large part, it’s because growing up in a culture marked by male privilege, women have been conditioned to not self-promote. Alternatively, women have been conditioned to defer credit-taking to men.

Indeed, according to this article, in mixed gender groups, women are more likely to underplay their contributions or achievements in the presence of men than in a single-gender group. Here’s a quote:

In a study recently published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, researchers Michelle C. Haynes and Madeline E. Heilman conducted a series of studies that revealed women were unlikely to take credit for their role in group work in a mixed-gender setting unless their roles were explicitly clear to outsiders. When women worked only with other women, they found, this problem of not taking credit disappears.

“Women gave more credit to their male teammates and took less credit themselves unless their role in bringing about the performance outcome was irrefutably clear or they were given explicit information about their likely task competence,” the study finds. “However, women did not credit themselves less when their teammate was female.”

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m all for humility. After all, Jesus calls for it. Philippians 2:3-4 reads like this: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”

Lord knows, the world needs all the humility it can get.

And yet Jesus also calls for giving credit where credit is due. In Luke 10:7, in and amongst his list of directives for the 72 disciples that he is sending out, Jesus says, “the worker deserves his (her) wages.”

So, it’s good to be humble, but not to the point of not getting paid.

It strikes me that this context, the mixed-gender working group, would make a good case study. A couple of weeks ago, I posted about men needing to step back in order for women to have room to step up.

On one hand, women need to be bolder in taking their share of the credit when the group is working well. With humility, women need to rightly celebrate their successes and resist the urge to downplay their achievements. On the other hand, men need to be better about either encouraging women to take credit, singing their praises on their behalf, or not hogging the glory in the first place. The equation is simple:

Women step up as men step back.

And if that could happen, everyone wins.

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