The Power and Importance of Self-Advocacy 

For women especially, one of the hardest (but most important!) tasks in business is standing up for yourself. Whether it’s asking for a raise, combatting exclusionary behavior, or simply making your ideas heard, self-advocacy is vital to making an impact in any industry. Here are eight tips to help guide your interactions with your boss or peers so that your words pack the most punch.

1) Use concrete language (ie. “I would advise” instead of “I think”).

Studies on male and female members of the business world have suggested that using concrete language can help women gain more power in situations and help women feel more in control of the meeting.

2) Visualize yourself where you want to be.

Sometimes all it takes is envisioning yourself crushing a business pitch to have enough confidence to follow through. With that being said...

3) Have confidence in your abilities – don’t limit yourself!

Women tend to downplay their accomplishments and skills compared to men. Even if you think you aren’t “qualified,” there’s a good chance you are, so it’s important to take a risk every now and then.

4) Don’t limit yourself based on others expectations either.

If I always listened to what others told me I couldn’t do, then I most certainly would not have taken specific classes or applied for specific jobs – classes and jobs that have helped me find mentors, friends, and passions. Show yourself and others what you are capable of!

5) Forge strong relationships with your peers and find mentors.

Some of the best guidance and help I’ve received has been from others who were just in my position, or someone on the inside who believes in my skills. Utilizing your network can help you figure out the best way to approach a problem.

6) Make use of virtual and in-person communication both ahead of and after scheduled meetings.

If the meeting is a phone call, write down a couple of points that you want to make sure to integrate so you don’t forget. This can also help calm those nerves.

7) Prepare to speak spontaneously, but also practice what you plan to say.

Write notes and rehearse general ideas without memorizing a script. Practice doesn’t make perfect, but practice can help manage some of the anxieties that come with self-advocacy. Feeling comfortable enough with the content allows you to direct your focus to the task at hand.

8) Demand direct feedback and learn to accept both criticism and compliments.

This one is hard, but it is important to understand what areas you can improve on so that you can produce your best work. Being proactive about feedback also shows your employer or peers that you are dedicated to your job.

And if all of this sounds intimidating: fake it ‘til you make it! If you show to others that you are confident and in control, they will believe that you are.

Swib University