Confident Together: Strategies To Up Confidence as Women In The Workplace

While confidence wanes for women beginning in the teen years, here are strategies for building up your confidence at work.

While confidence wanes for women beginning in the teen years, here are strategies for building up your confidence at work.

Call it stamina, call it confidence, call it ambition. It’s the secret sauce that many of us hope to have. We strive to be full of confidence and we want to claim it genuinely as our own as we push forward in our careers.

As women in the workplace, we are likely battling gender bias and a host of confidence interrupters. But can we help each other grow in confidence together?

Can we help each other grow in confidence together? #leanintogether #taketheleadwomen

Some say that confidence can arrive superficially, with putting your tasks in perspective, practicing chatting with strangers or striking a power pose before a meeting, according to Abigail Libers, writing in The Daily Worth.

But others insist inherent confidence is in short supply for most women in the workplace, and it is a path that starts much earlier in adolescence.

Research from Girlguiding shows that most girls’ career confidence plummets during adolescence. And these insecurities continue into working life: a survey showed that almost 50 percent of women believe they would be further in their career if they had more self-belief – with half of women saying they have been burdened by these insecurities since school (only one in 10 said it started in the workplace). This lack of self-confidence could be preventing young women from excelling in their careers and securing the same high-level positions as men,” according to Jo Wimble-Groves writing in The Guardian.

“Some women also experience a drop in confidence mid-career. For example, returning to work after maternity leave can leave many feeling concerned that they have missed too much – with one in three women returning to find their job “unrecognizable” to the one they left,” Wimble-Groves writes.

She suggests you focus on areas where you excel; sharpen your soft skills and push yourself to try for different opportunities and promotions.

In industry sectors that traditionally do not have gender parity at the top, maintaining confidence is a challenge for many women in the workplace.

“Women hold influential positions in technology companies, but there’s clearly room for more women in startups and the C-suites of the world’s most innovative companies.  Silicon Valley Bank’s Innovation Economy Outlook 2016 survey of 900 executives worldwide found that 63 percent of companies have no women on their boards and 44 percent have no women in executive positions,” according to Silicon Valley Bank.

Frida Polli, co-founder and CEO of Pymetrics, “agrees that you have to believe in yourself, or no one else will,” according to Silicon Valley Bank.

“’Any founder has to have the belief of how the world should be.’ Polli said. But in those early days of hand-wringing, with no office and not much money, she admits she had thoughts of giving up. Only then did she recognize that her startup’s biggest asset was staring her right in the face.”

Polli said she needed to have confidence in herself and her team.

And while many discuss the slide in confidence in women, a new study from BMO Wealth Management backs up what Polli experienced. Research shows women entrepreneurs are more confident than men.

Research shows women entrepreneurs are more confident than men #womenintheworkplace #taketheleadwomen

“According to the report, 72 per cent of female entrepreneurs felt very confident or somewhat confident in making risk-related business decisions compared to 64 per cent of male entrepreneurs.”

As an entrepreneur, working to nurture a startup, confidence can feel elusive. Caren Maio, CEO and co-founder of Nestio, writes in Fortune, how she managed.

“I was clawing through another overworked weekend when I realized I needed to change. On Monday morning, I reached out to one of my investors, who gave me this elegant advice I’ll never forget: ‘Everything feels urgent, but few things are truly important — so focus on those,’” Maio writes.

Other realizations that have helped increase her confidence and success are in understanding the pressures and the isolation of being at the top.

“I’ve since realized I wasn’t alone in feeling alone. One survey reveals that half of CEOs feel loneliness at the top, and more than half of those who feel lonely say that loneliness hinders their performance. The solution is simple, if not necessarily easy: Let go of the fear that keeps you from asking for help,” Maio writes.

And even the missteps that may launch an erosion of confidence in the first place, may increase your sense of purpose when you pull through the tough times.

“Every entrepreneur is bound to mess up — often,” Maio writes. “My mistakes, as painful as they were, taught me lessons that strengthened my company. Ironically, getting stuff wrong as an entrepreneur is sometimes the quickest way to grow and find the path forward.”

OK, what does a confident woman look like and how can we each become confident in who we are as individuals?

“Confident women don’t feel the need to conform to others’ standards, clothing, body shape, or beliefs, because they aren’t walking cookie cutters. They stand strong in who they are because they know that they have their own unique gifts and talents. They know it’s more powerful and courageous to look within and discover what makes them happy,” writes Alexis Meads in Huffington Post.

They are also aware that work will not always be simple or easy. “Confident women know that there will be bumps along the road. They know they’re not perfect or capable of always making the right decision,” Meads writes.

The high profiles of women around the world and in this country running for political office—including the highest one—may play a role in increasing the level of confidence of women everywhere.

“A third of women (31 per cent) say they feel more confident to speak their mind at work, following the rise of notable female world leaders such as Theresa May and Angela Merkel, according to a new study released by Crunch,” according to Ben Lobel in Small Business.

And many women watching the second U.S. presidential debate Sunday, remarked on the confidence under pressure displayed in the demeanor, mannerisms, expressions and even the pantsuit of  Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.

“Almost a fifth (17 per cent) of respondents feel greater confidence to speak up and have a greater voice in meetings, with a further one in ten (12 per cent) women saying they are more willing to haggle or negotiate a business deal,” according to Lobel.

“The boom in female leaders may also have inspired a new wave of entrepreneurs; 40 per cent of women say they feel more confident about pursuing their dream of starting a business,” he writes.

Comic Iliza Shlesinger, who “in 2008  became the first woman and youngest contestant to win NBC’s ‘Last Comic Standing,’ has hosted ‘Excused,’ a reality-based dating game and more recently the TBS series ‘Separation Anxiety,’ according to the San Jose Mercury News, is somewhat of an expert on confidence and women.

“Her scripted show ‘Forever 31,’ for ABC’s digital platform, has been renewed for a second season, and has a third Netflix comedy special, ‘Confirmed Kills’” coming up soon, along with her new book, Girl Logic, out next year, writes Paul Freeman.

Shlesinger told Freeman: “We’ve come a long way in terms of confidence. All I can do as a woman is have compassion, treat other women with kindness and allow them to just be happy and not judge them for it. That’s the key.”

Want to see where you stand in terms of confidence?

Katty Kay and Claire Shipman, authors of Confidence Code, have a quiz for you. Take it here.

“Our confidence assessment is easy to take, but make no mistake—it’s a sophisticated assessment that is based on a variety of existing psychological surveys, and some critical new questions,” Write Kay and Shipman.

“It was created with the help of Dr. Richard Petty, of The Ohio State University, Dr. Kenneth DeMarree of the University at Buffalo, and Dr. Pablo Briñol at the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid. It’s the first survey of its kind to attempt to broadly measure confidence in women, and in the long run, we are hoping the data will yield important information about other factors that might impact confidence—such as income, geography, ethnicity and age.”

About the Author

Michele Weldon is editorial director of Take The Lead, an award-winning author, journalist, emerita faculty in journalism at Northwestern University and a senior leader with The OpEd Project. @micheleweldon