Navigating the performance review: A strategic blueprint for women

In the professional realm, performance reviews stand as a pivotal moment—a time to reflect on accomplishments, identify areas for growth, and set the trajectory for future career development. For many women, however, these evaluations can also present unique challenges, magnified by the gender dynamics still pervasive in so many workplaces—a factor in 65% of everywomanNetwork members feeling ‘anxious’ about their Review. Recognising and navigating these challenges requires preparation and a strategic approach tailored to leverage your strengths and address the nuanced barriers you may face.

This guide proposes a comprehensive framework for you to prepare for your performance reviews, encapsulated in our acronym STRIVE: Self-assessment, Tangible achievements, Resilience, Influence, Voice, and Empowerment. This strategic blueprint aims to empower you to confidently approach your performance evaluations, ensuring you can advocate for your value and career advancement.

Self-Assessment: The Foundation of Your Review Strategy

Self-assessment is the critical first step in preparing for your performance review. This involves a thorough reflection on your past year’s achievements, challenges, and growth areas. It’s essential to recognise any implicit biases that might affect your self-evaluation. For example, research suggests women are often more critical of their performance. To counteract this tendency, focus on objective metrics and feedback received throughout the year. List out your achievements, skills acquired, and any challenges you overcame. This self-appraisal will serve as the foundation for articulating your contributions and value during the review.

To augment the foundation of your review strategy through self-assessment, we suggest adopting the practice of maintaining a ‘feedback file’. An invaluable tool, it’s essentially a document stored somewhere easily accessible, such as your desktop, filled with positive feedback, accolades, and acknowledgements received throughout the year. It can significantly offset any discomfort associated with self-promotion—a sentiment frequently experienced by women on the everywomanNetwork, 16% of whom say that they tend to focus more on what they haven’t achieved.

Drawing from this repository allows you to showcase your accomplishments through the lens of others’ appreciation and validation, making it inherently easier to communicate your value. Moreover, this practice serves as an effective countermeasure to what psychologists call the ‘recency effect’ whereby a performance review focuses predominantly on only the most recent achievements over those accomplished earlier in the year. By regularly updating your feedback file, you ensure a comprehensive reflection of your contributions, thereby presenting a balanced and holistic view of your performance. This approach not only bolsters your self-assessment with tangible evidence but also strengthens your case for recognition and advancement.

Tangible Achievements: Quantify Your Impact

In articulating your value, specificity and quantification are your allies. Tangible achievements are those you can measure—increased sales, improved efficiency, successful project completions and so on. Presenting concrete evidence of their contributions is particularly crucial for credibility. So, prepare a list of your key accomplishments, complete with numbers and percentages, to illustrate your impact clearly. This approach not only bolsters your case for a positive review but also challenges any unconscious biases that might be at play by making your contributions undeniable.

Resilience: Highlight Your Adaptability and Persistence

Resilience is a critical skill in the modern workplace, particularly in times of change or crisis—and one that is increasingly recognised as vital in those leading our organisations. For female professionals who are still underrepresented at senior levels, showcasing resilience is also an opportunity to show your leadership credentials and help close the gender gap. Prepare examples of how you’ve adapted to change, overcome obstacles, or managed difficult situations. These narratives can demonstrate your ability to thrive in adversity.

To effectively communicate your resilience during the performance review, consider sharing specific examples that illustrate your adaptability and persistence. For instance, you could mention a time when you successfully navigated a project despite unforeseen challenges, such as a key team member’s sudden departure or significant budget cuts. Discuss how you pivoted on a strategy, divided the workload among remaining team members, and perhaps even took on additional responsibilities to ensure the project’s success. Another example could be how you responded to feedback about a weakness in your skill set by seeking out training or mentorship to improve and then applying those new skills to benefit your team or project. Or you might talk about how you maintained team morale and productivity during a period of organisational change or uncertainty, showcasing your leadership in keeping your team focused and motivated. These concrete examples demonstrate your resilience, proactive approach to problem-solving, commitment to continuous improvement, and team leadership.

Influence: Demonstrate Leadership and Collaboration

Influence extends beyond formal authority; it’s about how you lead, inspire, and collaborate with others to achieve goals. We know that, as women, exercising our influence can be complicated by gender dynamics that undervalue female leadership styles. In preparing for your review, identify instances where you’ve led initiatives, mentored colleagues, or facilitated team success. Emphasising your role in fostering a positive, collaborative environment and driving results showcases your leadership capabilities and challenges preconceived notions about your influence.

Voice: Assert Your Perspectives and Needs

Having a voice in the review process means clearly articulating your achievements, aspirations, and needs. For female professionals, asserting oneself can sometimes be daunting, given the fine line we often navigate between being perceived as too passive or overly aggressive. Practice stating your achievements confidently and expressing your career aspirations and what you need to achieve them. Whether it’s additional responsibilities, professional development opportunities, or support in specific areas, being clear about your needs is essential for career progression.

Getting comfortable with articulating your needs in an assertive way can be developed through a few practical steps. First, practice your statements and requests in advance. Write down what you want to say, focusing on “I” statements that express your needs and feelings without placing blame or making assumptions about others’ intentions. For example, instead of saying, “You haven’t given me enough opportunities,” try, “I’m looking for more opportunities to grow in specific areas”. Practising out loud, either in front of a mirror or with a trusted friend or mentor, can also help refine your message and delivery. Additionally, focusing on the mutual benefits of your requests can make your propositions more persuasive. Explain how your professional growth and the fulfilment of your needs can contribute to the team’s or organisation’s success. Finally, be prepared for negotiation and remember that it’s okay to ask for time to consider counteroffers or additional suggestions. By preparing in this manner, you’ll feel more confident in articulating your needs and more adept at navigating the following discussions.

Empowerment: Seek Feedback and Advocate for Your Growth

Empowerment in the context of performance reviews involves proactively seeking feedback and advocating for your growth and development needs. It’s about taking charge of your career trajectory. In a world where career paths aren’t always clear and tangible, this is particularly important for women who want to progress up the ladder. Prepare questions to solicit constructive feedback, express interest in new challenges or roles, and discuss your career aspirations. This dialogue not only helps identify growth opportunities but also signals your ambition and commitment to professional development.

To further empower yourself during your performance review, consider asking questions and making statements that directly contribute to your professional growth and highlight your proactive stance on career development.


  • “Can you provide specific examples of what I can improve on and how I might approach these improvements?”
  • “I’m interested in [specific skill or area of expertise]. Could we explore opportunities for me to develop in this area?”
  • “What do you see as the next steps in my career progression within our organisation, and how can I best prepare for these opportunities?”
  • “I would like to take on more responsibility in [specific area or project]. Do you have any advice on how I can make this transition effectively?”
  • “Based on my current performance, what additional contributions can I make to enhance our team’s or organisation’s success?”
  • “Are there any upcoming projects or roles that align with my career goals and the skills I wish to develop?”
  • “I value your feedback and would like to schedule regular check-ins to discuss my progress and any areas for development. How does that sound to you?”

By asking such questions and making these statements, you not only demonstrate your commitment to personal and professional growth but also take an active role in shaping your career path. This approach can help forge a more collaborative relationship with your line manager, centred on mutual respect and a shared interest in your development. Empowerment comes from not only seeking opportunities but also creating them through open dialogue and strategic planning for your future.

Conclusion: STRIVE for Success

The STRIVE framework offers a holistic approach for female professionals preparing for their performance reviews. It emphasises the importance of self-awareness, quantifying achievements, showcasing resilience and leadership, asserting one’s voice, and actively seeking empowerment. By adopting this strategic blueprint, you can navigate the performance review process more effectively, advocate for your value and advancement, and challenge the gender dynamics that might otherwise limit professional growth.

In the end, preparation is key. By approaching your performance review with a comprehensive strategy, you not only set the stage for a successful evaluation but also take a significant step towards advancing your career on your terms. Remember, your performance review is not just a reflection of your past achievements but a pivotal opportunity to shape your future.


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