Busting With Confidence: Why Women Leaders Need More In The C-Suite

Studies show women and men differ not in competence at the leadership level, but in cofidence.There she is: the woman who oozes self-confidence in every meeting, presentation and work event. Her confidence is evident in the way she talks, walks, even stands or sits. But she may be an anomaly as new research shows the difference between the genders in the workplace is not competence, but confidence. And women have less of it.According to new research from Development Dimensions International and the Conference Board, only 30 percent of women leaders rate themselves in the top 10 percent of leaders, compared to 37 percent of men in the same positions who consider themselves at the top.At the senior level, the study shows only 49 percent of the women leaders rate themselves as highly effective leaders, while 63 percent of the men at the same level consider themselves top dog.“Women need to do a better job of declaring themselves and becoming their own advocates—speaking and acting confidently and mentally promoting themselves to a future-focused role,” said Tacy M. ByhamCEO of DDI.Even though all organizations across the board perform better with more women in leadership roles, there are still sectors where women are a rarity at the top. Fewer women leaders abound in consumer products, manufacturing and transportation, with 15 to 30 percent women in top roles in those industries. The most women leaders are in healthcare, education and retail.As a rare woman leader in the transportation industry, Carolyn McCall, CEO of EasyJet, with 69 million passengers per year, agrees confidence is key.She told Marketing Week: “Women have to feel confident in their own ability, as they can then go to their boss and say: ‘I really love what I do and want to stay, but it would make it easier if I did my job this way and can we talk about that?’ But they need to have the confidence to have that conversation,” she said.Building confidence is one of the top five steps to success for women leaders, according to Ma. Elena, writing in Latin Post. The others include education, preparation and mentorship.Deconstructing what it takes to have that important self-confidence as a leader can include simple steps like posture, eye contact, body language and even smiling.Social psychologist Amy Cuddy in her 2012 TED talk (that now has earned more than 32 million views) explains the relationship between body language, perception, and self-esteem.And while it may not be appropriate to stand like Wonder Woman with your hands on your hips in every meeting or presentation, you can do 90 seconds of the power pose before you walk into any meeting. That shift alone may give you more confidence.Speaking to Sallie Krawcheck, chair of Ellevate Network, global tennis power house and entrepreneur Venus Williams admits that confidence plays a role in all she does. She tells Ellevate: “More than anything if you’re relaxed and confident, that’s when your best tennis – your best anything – comes out. When you’re tight and stressed out it’s very hard to get the best out of yourself.”Of course you have to back up your confidence with real content, knowledge and expertise. Smiling and power stance without the back-up will not go very far. [bctt tweet=“You can’t just act like a leader, you have to be a leader.”]Women innovators and leaders throughout history have had to display confidence even when there were no role models of women before them to pave the way. To salute the women behind culture-changing inventions during Women’s History Month, Jessica Samakow, an editor at Huffington Post, reminds us that women introduced so many inventions that changed the world.For instance, the patent goes to Margaret Knight, who created the process to make square-bottomed paper bags in 1871. And Josephine Cochrane—bless her heart and her rinse cycle—invented the dishwasher. We have Ann Tsukamuto to thank for stem cell isolation and Stephanie Kwolek for saving lives as she invented Kevlar in 1966.Perhaps affecting most of the people on the planet is Ruth Wakefield, who invented chocolate chip cookies. No, it was not Debbie Fields, or Mrs. Fields, but the owner of the Toll House Inn in 1930 who broke up some pieces of chocolate to add to a batch of cookies. The rest as they say, is cookie dough.Perhaps one of the most confident women on the planet, Beyonce, reportedly told Garage magazine in an interview that she recommends Marianne Schnall’s book, What Will It Take To Make A Woman President? She also says she has had self-confidence her whole life.According to NY Daily News, Beyonce attributes her huge success, including 20 Grammy wins, to confidence and gratitude. She says, “My mother has instilled confidence in my sister and me and taught us to always be grateful.”In her new book, Being Equal Doesn’t Mean Being The Same, author Joanna L. Krutz, writes that according to “a range of academicians and pundits, women business owners suffer from: low confidence, less business experience, smaller startup capital; gender bias in funding…and on the hobby horse goes.”Confidence isn’t the only separating factor between the genders in leadership. But it is a big one. Kurtz, who was featured in Black Enterprise recently, writes in her book,” With the exception of confidence, women generally score higher than men in all dimensions of leadership style.”