By Bhavana Bartholf, Chief Digital & Transformation Officer for Microsoft Commercial Solution Areas (Global)

Businesswoman looking over her shoulder while sitting at a boardroom table with colleagues working in the background

Thank you for joining me on this journey, where I have been sharing my Advocating for Yourself series in Profiles in Diversity Journal. Throughout this process, I have found myself gaining more and more clarity on where I’ve been and where I want to go—I hope you have, too. Today, in Part 4 of the series, I’m sharing my insights into the last two steps of the 5 Steps for How to Advocate for Yourself:

  1. Believe in yourself
  2. Be proud of your journey
  3. You always have a choice
  4. Be brave and ask for what matters
  5. Find your pack

Step 4–Be brave and ask for what matters

“Be brave and ask what matters” always reminds me of that famous quote attributed to John Wayne, “Courage is being scared to death and saddling up anyway.” Courage is literally not possible without fear. And everything we have done so far, in our previous steps, is learning to lean into embracing our fear. You will soon realize that when you know your strengths, acknowledge and work through your fear, and are prepared, this part, “Asking for what you want,” becomes easier. So, I would like to ask you to remember three things when you ask:

Be Clear–Spell it out

I remember one time I asked my son to clean his room, and when I checked in on him a few hours later, he hadn’t done anything. When I started to fuss at him about it, he looked at me and said, “Mom, if you wanted me to get it done at a specific time, you should have just said that. I hope you know, Mom, I am not able to read your mind.” Now, obviously, my initial thought was, “You should be glad you can’t read my mind.” But I realized he was right. We don’t live in a world of mind readers, and it isn’t worth getting frustrated or upset when we are not clear. So, make sure you spell out exactly what you want.

Be Bold–Don’t minimize your ask

Remember what matters to you matters, so don’t get this far and start to backtrack on what you intended to ask. My grandfather would always say, “Live every day like it is your last and so make it count.” So be BOLD. As Norman Vincent Peale says, “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.”

Don’t overexplain your ask–Leave space for the person to respond

This is one I continue to struggle with today. As a woman, I have this urge to explain myself when I have to do or ask for something for myself. I personally feel it helps others recognize why, just so I don’t come across as “being selfish.” And while I fully well know it is important to take care of yourself and self-advocate, this is one area in which I have to lean into the discomfort of the silence that comes when you ask. And I need to pause, leave space for the person to process my ask, and then respond.

Step 5–Find your pack

Finally, don’t go it alone! We all need our people and, as women, we especially do. We need that validation, encouragement, and support through the good and the bad. Surround yourself with people who uplift and encourage you. Whether that’s family, or close friends, these are people who make you feel good about yourself and bring out the best in you.

I would be remiss if I didn’t admit it is sometimes tough for women, especially in their careers, to find women who are truly happy about another woman’s success, and are people they can trust. Some of the toughest experiences in my career were due to my interactions with other women. There simply aren’t enough of us, so let’s make sure we make room and celebrate the success of every woman.

And remember, you are the CEO of your life. Every CEO has a board of directors that advises her, so make sure you engage with your sponsors, coaches, mentors, and advisors—let them guide and enable you. In addition, we need our allies to be there for us.

Now that you know the framework for Self-Advocacy, I am confident that you can do it. Simply imagine what would happen if women everywhere stepped up to ask for what they want!

I would like to thank Profiles in Diversity Journal Publisher & Founder James Rector for inviting me to share my ideas in this informative and inspirational publication. I hope that now that we’ve been on this journey together you’ll stay connected with me and let me know how you are advocating for yourself at work and in life. The big secret? Self-Advocacy is hard for everyone, especially hard for women! However, we honestly have a lot to gain and little to lose when we do it! So, I encourage you: Give it your best shot—we are all just works in progress!

Please follow to watch the release of Bhavana’s first-ever TEDx talk: “The Secret to Self-Advocacy,” where she spoke on this topic May 4, 2022! Stay tuned for the upload, expected in June.

Bhavana Bartholf

Bhavana Bartholf

Bhavana Bartholf ( is the Chief Digital & Transformation Officer for Microsoft Commercial Solutions Areas (Global) and a Profiles in Diversity Journal Woman Worth Watching in Leadership for 2021. This is the fourth article in her Advocating for Yourself series. She hopes to continue to stay in touch with PDJ readers through LinkedIn and welcomes opportunities to connect.