Bragging Versus Celebrating: Is there A Gender Gap in How We React to Accomplishments?

By Kathryn Magura

In a recent conversation with a friend of mine, we were discussing how men and women tend to react differently when they win something. The conversation stemmed from the fact that I recently won an award from ACUHO-I for the Article of the Year for an article I wrote for our Talking Stick Journal with a colleague.

During our conversation, my friend asked me if I had shared the news with my colleagues at work. I responded that I had told my supervisor and a few coworkers, and had posted the news on Facebook and Twitter. I didn’t feel it should be my role to send something out to our department, because I didn’t want to be perceived as bragging. My friend pointed out to me that I should be very proud of my award, because it is a reflection of all my hard work and commitment to my national association. My friend further pointed out that if I were a man, I would have shouted my achievement from the rooftops.

This comment really got me thinking. Why didn’t I share my achievement more broadly? If I did “shout it from the rooftops” would I come across as egocentric and bragging? Would this perception be the same if I was a man? What role does gender play in how we approach celebrating accomplishments?

Since we had this conversation, I have been continuing to think about the perceived gender gap in celebration of accomplishments. In the past, whenever I have accomplished a big goal or won something, I have been quick to share credit with others, and often belittle the level of honor I deserve. Do I do this because it is a female tendency? Do my male counterparts do the same?

If there is a gender discrepancy in honoring awards and accomplishments, how do we change it? How do we make it okay for everyone (man, woman, whatever) to be proud of what they have accomplished?

Oh, and for the record: I AM SO EXCITED AND HONORED TO HAVE WON THIS DISTINGUISHED AWARD! There, that felt good.

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  • Niki Rudolph

    Well done, both in the the award and shouting it from the rooftops. Both are well deserved.

  • http://twitter.com/Kmagura Kathryn Magura

    Thank you, Niki!

  • http://kristendomblogs.com Kristen Abell

    Kathryn–first, congrats! You rock!
    Second, yes, yes and yes – as women, we do tend to brag less. And yes, as women, we do tend to get criticized more (usually by other women) when we do brag. 
    Want me to add another wrench to this scenario? With the added focus on teamwork in our field, we’re often pressured to talk in “we’s” instead of “I’s.” So if you brag, you’re not considered to be a “team player.” Sigh – I just want my recognition!

    • http://twitter.com/Kmagura Kathryn Magura

       Oh yes, horizontal hostility. I am guilty of this as well, but am working to get past myself and be proud of both mine and the achievements of those around me.

  • http://twitter.com/annmarieklotz Ann Marie Klotz

    Good for you :) Own your accomplishments!!! I am so prooud of you!!

    • http://twitter.com/Kmagura Kathryn Magura

       AMK, thanks for being such a champion and voice of reason for me.

  • http://twitter.com/bensoncorey Corey Benson

    Congratulations, Kathryn Magura! You are amazing.

    • http://twitter.com/Kmagura Kathryn Magura

       Aww, thanks Corey. You’re pretty swell yourself. :)

  • http://twitter.com/kl_archambault Dr Karen Archambault

    Not sure if this is a male/female thing, but I notice the same in myself.  When I’ve won some accolade, I tend to shy away from the compliments.  I always put it to my virgo/stage director rather than star personality, but perhaps there’s a gender connection as well. Thank you for getting me thinking — I’ll have to pay more attention to how I receive news of others achievements as well — do I perceive men as achieving and women as bragging?  I hope not!

    • http://twitter.com/Kmagura Kathryn Magura

       I wonder if a lot of student affairs professionals feel this way. I know I see myself as more a stage director than actor as well.

  • http://twitter.com/Tim_Lade Tim Lade

    Great work and well deserved.  As a dude through (or a Bro as my male RAs tend to say) I never relish shouting from the rooftops about my accomplishments.  I generally get super uncomfortable when people centre me out in a meeting and I would much prefer sharing the praise with others.  I don’t know why that is…but just always the way I’ve rolled.  I think it is pretty awesome though to be able to grow into it so good on you for pushing forward!

    • http://twitter.com/Kmagura Kathryn Magura

       Tim, I agree that the differences aren’t finite – not all men and all women react the same way. That said, it seems that men do a better job of celebrating their personal accomplishments than men.

  • http://twitter.com/OberBecca Becca Obergefell

    I’m not sure if it’s a gender gap or not, but I do know that (although I’m a millennial who appreciates praise and recognition) I’m not out promoting myself.  I think Tim makes a good point too– I’m cautious to lump all men together as the opposition on this one. But as Kristen mentioned, it’s easy to feel targeted by other women for celebration/self-promotion. You bet my publications and presentations are on my resume and topics in interviews, but beyond that I prefer to keep it pretty quiet.

    Despite the cattiness that can happen in women’s circles, I like to think that I’m connected with women who promote each other– lending a balance of humility and praise. Can we be proud of our accomplishments and not come off as braggarts? You’ve got me thinking, my word for the year is “celebrate”…. 

  • http://twitter.com/OberBecca Becca Obergefell

    I’m not sure if it’s a gender gap or not, but I do know that (although I’m a millennial who appreciates praise and recognition) I’m not out promoting myself.  I think Tim makes a good point too– I’m cautious to lump all men together as the opposition on this one. But as Kristen mentioned, it’s easy to feel targeted by other women for celebration/self-promotion. You bet my publications and presentations are on my resume and topics in interviews, but beyond that I prefer to keep it pretty quiet.

    Despite the cattiness that can happen in women’s circles, I like to think that I’m connected with women who promote each other– lending a balance of humility and praise. Can we be proud of our accomplishments and not come off as braggarts? You’ve got me thinking, my word for the year is “celebrate”…. 

    • http://twitter.com/Kmagura Kathryn Magura

       Becca, thanks for your insights! I am choosing to see opportunities like this as a way to celebrate my accomplishments with others. Be proud of what you achieve! We’re all certainly very proud of you.

  • http://twitter.com/pmilleredu Paul Jacobson-Miller

    Ditto on the Congrats and how interesting the point you bring up is.  I have been thinking a lot about the things I do that I will never improve on. One of those is taking credit for my role in successes. I  value others; feelings of accomplishment and using “we” versus “I” even to my own detriment. There are times that it has come back to bite me because my contributions are not always apparent. Despite those instances I will always default to pushing others’ contributions while downplaying my own because I value others’ sense of ownership over my own recognition.

    For me this is another sticky situation where some gender distinguishment (new word I made up for this) is both necessary and dangerous. We are at a place where we cannot group all “men” and “women” together; neither can we deny that there are cultural pressure and messages that still exist based on gender identity. I do see some behaviors that are more prevalent among women and some that are more prevalent among men.

    One thing I have noticed and that has been amazing to see is the increase in the support that women in SA have shown each other! I don’t remember seeing it to this extent a few years ago.

    So in conclusion, CONGRATULATIONS on the award and for giving us all something very interesting to think about!