Last night, students, faculty, and community members gathered at the UNC Bookstore to celebrate the release of Dr. Cynthia Bulik’s newest book, The Woman in the Mirror: Stop Confusing What You Look Like With Who You Are. Dr. Bulik highlighted key points from her book, such as separating body-esteem from self-esteem and how the media consistently tries to make us feel discontent about our appearance. The reading and presentation were followed by a book signing and the opportunity to participate in Dr. Bulik’s Mirror Project! To celebrate this wonderful evening, we have decided to include another excerpt from her book. To read more about The Woman in the Mirror, please visit
Women are on a treadmill and for many, running faster than ever. The fortunate ones are developing more respectful and accepting inner dialogue about their bodies, but women are still uttering disparaging and disrespectful comments about themselves that undermine their goals and diminish their achievements.
If you are working or in academe, chances are good that you are embedded in a male-dominated environment. The structure, culture, and norms were developed long ago when women were still in the home. Just like the elementary school playground, the ground rules are set by the boys. Decades later you may still be experiencing that sense of not fitting in or of your work environment not really being a place where you can be yourself and thrive in a way that is congruent with your sex.
Etta Pisano, M.D., Dean of the College of Medicine at the Medical University of South Carolina has devoted a considerable portion of her career to promoting women in the medical school setting. In medical schools across the country you see a similar pattern. There are more female medical students than male, but as you go up the ranks of faculty through Assistant Professor, to Associate Professor, to full Professor, the percentage of women drops precipitously. The percentage of female faculty drops from 38% at the Assistant Professor level, to 27% at the Associate Professor level, all the way down to 15% at the Full Professor level! Only 11% of chairs and 10% of deans are women. The higher up you go, the fewer women there are. Medicine is just one example, but this pattern holds in many fields. Although women comprise over 50% of the population, of those 435 public servants who represent us in the U.S. House of Representatives, only 76 are female—a whopping 17%. Finally, between 1901 and 2009, only 41 Nobel Prizes and Prizes in Economic Sciences have been awarded to women and 765 to men. With some individuals honored more than once, the actual total is 40 females and 762 males.
There are myriad reasons that women don’t make it to the top or choose not to strive for the top. Some of the barriers require broad social change, but some of them are under our control. Women are not as skilled at or comfortable with self-promotion as men. Over the years, Dean Pisano noticed that whenever she encouraged or nominated women for powerful positions, often their responses were in the vein of “ I’m not ready” “I’m not qualified” or “I don’t know enough about management, finances, etc.” This was in stark contrast to male nominees who, if anything, overestimated their own qualifications. She counseled women to take a risk, grab these positions, and learn as they go, yet many still hesitated. Her advice dovetails perfectly with career advice given by a wise colleague in Portugal who says that if you want to move up the ladder, and someone offers you something, “Don’t think, just say yes, and panic later.”
Not to advocate developing a completely male approach to self-promotion, but our inability to do so is wrapped up in our wavering self-esteem. Women can be mindful of and rewrite their internal script in order to self-promote more effectively and still stay within their comfort zone.
Introduction by: Lauren Janson
Book excerpt by: Dr. Cynthia Bulik