Sisters are doing it for themselves
: an exploration of the self-promotional work women undertake as they seek professional advancement

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

Abstract

While legislation and managerial interventions might seek to advance more women, there is also an increasing emphasis on individuals taking personal responsibility for their professional advancement. Entrepreneurs and employees alike are advised to promote themselves and highlight their accomplishments and skills both on and off-line. This popular discourse has been fuelled by the growth of social media platforms which afford individuals unprecedented opportunities to present themselves, and establish their worth. However, prior literature suggests self-promotion is particularly problematic for women.
Therefore, this compilation thesis explores the self-promotional work women undertake.
The six articles explore the experience of women who seek professional advancement within entrepreneurialism and advertising’s creative departments. While these settings might appear diverse, they provide rich study contexts with some similarities. Both are unstructured, lacking any clear path for progression, with self-promotion recommended as a route to professional advancement. To explore women’s self-promotion, this thesis employs a range of qualitative methods intended to capture the lived experiences of women, and enable their voices to be heard.
Individually the papers extend our understanding of women’s self-promotion through the lenses of impression management, identity and institutional theories. In contrast to priorliterature which found women to be passive, the findings indicate that women are active and innovative in self-promotion. Women are also leveraging promotional tools to expose the gendered practices they encounter within the workplace. However, self-promotional work can cause women stress, and invoke a negative reaction from others. Ultimately, the findings of this thesis expose the limitations of shifting the sole responsibility for women’s professional advancement on to individuals. Despite the increased visibility of gender issues, it appears that the communities of practice and societal contexts in which women seek professional advancement, continue to produce and reproduce beliefs and practices which are problematic for women and limit their progress,
Date of AwardFeb 2021
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorLiza Howe-Walsh (Supervisor) & Sarah Turnbull (Supervisor)

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