Claiming Your Value: A Key Skill for Women in Transition

By Sally Helgesen

“What’s your worth?” might be one of the more difficult questions that women, particularly in the corporate world, need to face. In this article, Sally Helgesen elaborates on the importance of confidently articulating and claiming one’s value as a key skill for women particularly those in transition.


The ability to strongly and persuasively articulate your potential value is a key skill for anyone in transition. This seems like an obvious point, but it’s a requirement women sometimes shy away from. In my thirty years of working with women leaders around the world, I’ve encountered a surprising number who routinely underplay their achievements. This has the effect of holding them back at various points in their careers, but the costs can be particularly high during transitions.

Let’s first look at the hows and whys of women not fully claiming their value. Then we can examine how this affects them during transition, especially when seeking to move to a new job.

Some years ago, I conducted a series of interviews with senior female partners in accounting, law, consulting, and investment firms. I wanted to learn what they believed had been responsible for their success in cultures dominated almost entirely by men. I was especially eager to get their thoughts on how younger women in their firms might better position themselves for partnership.

The responses to my questions ran a wide gamut, but in two areas were remarkably consistent. When asked about the greatest strength of the younger women in their firms, the female partners almost unanimously cited the ability to deliver high quality work. “The women here go the extra mile when you give them assignments,” said one partner. Said another: “They are extremely conscientious, crossing every t and dotting every i. They take deadlines seriously. They are meticulous and reliable. You can count on them to get the job done.”

When asked what the younger women in their firms were worst at, the responses were also remarkably consistent. Here are the most frequent comments: “Hands down, they are worst at bringing attention and visibility to their successes.” “They often work harder than their male peers but seem to go out of their way to avoid taking credit for what they’ve done, especially with senior leaders.” And, “A lot of our women seem uncomfortable using the “I” word, so they try to spread the credit around or even give it away. This might make them good people but it doesn’t help their careers.”

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About the Author

Sally Helgesen is an author, speaker and consultant who delivers leadership programmes for organisations and associations around the world. Her six books include The Female Vision: Women’s Real Power at Work, The Female Advantage: Women’s Ways of Leadership, and The Web of Inclusion: A New Architecture for Building Great Organizations. Her new book, How Women Rise, co-authored with Marshall Goldsmith, will be published in April 2018.



2. How Women Rise, Sally Helgesen and Marshall Goldsmith, available April 2018.


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