Let’s all ‘Woman Up!’ Women and Confidence

From ‘Inspiring Women’, South Africa

How would you rate your confidence at work? 10 out of 10, 9, 8, 7 or 6? Most women I ask say “it depends…it varies from day to day”. Hardly anyone ever says 10, at least not before we’ve worked together.

If I am forced to sum up what I do in three words I will say ‘boost women’s confidence‘. I hate saying it really because I hate to perpetuate the idea that women aren’t confident. Yet my recent post on Imposter Syndrome provoked so many responses that I have to acknowledge it’s alive and well.

Survey after survey still tells us that women lack confidence. I first wrote about it years ago as you can see in this extract from 2011:

I was really interested therefore, to read of a survey undertaken by the Institute of Leadership and Management, Ambition & Gender. They spoke to 3,000 managers to find out what drives career ambition and to explore the barriers preventing women’s progression into senior management and leadership positions.

Among their findings was the fact that women are less confident of their abilities than men. Over half of the women admitted to feelings of self doubt compared with 31% of men.

I don’t know why this might be but suspect a lot of it is to do with some solutions to getting more women into senior positions. The tendency is to ‘fix’ women to behave more like men and not value as highly that which women bring to the workplace. On BBC Newsnight recently they were discussing the gender pay gap at the BBC and a female commentor said;

“Women must share the blame. They don’t ask for more money’.

To which I replied (out loud, on my own, to the TV) Well, whose fault is that? In fact, one of the BBC’s presenters, a very highly paid one, said he had never asked for a pay rise but he just kept getting them. On courses, and working within large organisations, I often find women berating themselves for not being more ambitious or ruthless, yet closer questioning reveals it’s much more about the compromises required of them to get to the top that saps confidence, rather than their ability to do the job. As Penny de Valk, ILM’s chief executive said, the research highlights some of the complex dynamics of what is, in many cases, still a male-centric work culture. As a society we simply do not value enough the contributions of women. I don’t think any women at the BBC got given a pay rise without asking it. The value system assumes men are worth more than women.

Penny went on to say that it is crucial that employers who are serious about gender diversity take steps to find ways to nuture women’s ambitions.

This means developing transparent talent management systems and introducing leadership career models and development approaches that flex to meet individuals’ differing needs. Coaching and mentoring, in particular, have an invaluable role to play. We know that gender diversity drives organisations’ financial performance. Business leaders should need no encouragement to ensure their most talented employees move into leadership roles, regardless of their gender

The legislation on publicising the gender pay gap is going to help, as the BBC revelations already show, and they are actually better than the average!

It’s why I wrote RenewYou. I wanted a course that made women feel really good about themselves, not that somehow they had failed because they weren’t enough like a man. I wanted them to feel proud of their femininity, and the traits and talents they bring to the workforce. To know that businesses need them to be successful if they are to thrive and succeed, just a much as they need the men. Banish ‘Man Up’ as a euphemism for stepping up a gear, let’s all ‘Woman Up!’

It’s hard because our subconscious conditioning goes very deep; sometimes we aren’t even aware of it. On RenewYou we try to tease out some of these unhelpful thoughts and make them work for us. I want women to walk out at the end of the day feeling an inch or so taller, with a plan, unique to them, of how they can advance their careers, be true to themselves as well a being the best version of themselves.

If you’re interested in attending a RenewYou course I am running two this Autumn (yes, two, early indications are that demand will be high!) Both are in Bristol at a venue close to the railway station (easy trip from London, for example) at the headquarters of the Bristol Law Society. No role plays. The whole day is focused on you and helping you feel even more confident and successful. The first is on October 9th, and the second is November 28th. You can find out more here.   Do come and join me! You’ll be able to network with some wonderful women and take away your 300 page journal which will motivate you for the next 12 months.


Posted on July 26th, 2017 by

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