By Valerie Martinelli, MPA – Leadership, Life, & Career Coach/ HR & Management Consultant
This is the conclusion to Val’s two part article on unleashing your confidence. Part 1 can be found HERE.
Confidence, The Elusive Concept?
We assume that we are among women who would be brimming with confidence and yet, they are still lacking somehow. Confidence has been an elusive concept for some time now and we have yet to fully understand why it is that many women are loaded with self-doubt. So, what gives?
Women need to know that they are not alone. You can have graduate degrees and certifications and still believe that you are not intelligent enough for a promotion. The sub-conscious belief that you are not good enough to fulfill a role does not necessarily bear any truth. Is it because men are more self-assured?
Studies have shown that there are strong findings that there is a significant gender gap that men report higher levels of self-esteem than women do. This gap emerges in adolescence and persists throughout early and middle adulthood before it narrows and disappears in old age. Past research has shown that socioeconomic, gender equality, sociodemographic, and cultural value indicators moderate cross cultural variation in gender and age differences in broad personality characteristics, it is conceivable that they may play a role in gender and age differences within self-esteem as well. These gender and age differences can be observed and across the world and can be reflective of their development, however, that does not tell the whole story regarding our leadership disparities.
Through my business, I have been inspired to instill more confidence in women. There isn’t a reason why we can’t lead fulfilling lives or be successful simply because we inherently believe that men are better at our jobs than we are. Women are typically rated higher than men at most leadership competencies. Whether we realize it or not, we are holding ourselves back. Organizations need diverse perspectives and they are more important than ever in a highly-connected, fast-paced, interdependent global economy. Without confidence, women cannot fulfill what employers are seeking; let alone the requirements of leadership positions. From what I have witnessed, women are continuously caught up in comparing themselves, whether that is to another female or a male counterpart. In either case, that is the single worst thing to do. We do not need to look another female who on the outside may have the perfect life or job or a male co-worker who we know earns more than we do. These points are not ineffective. Rather than focusing on what’s wrong, focus on what’s right. What do you have to offer your employer? Are you due for a review? Great- there isn’t a reason you shouldn’t consider asking for a promotion or a raise. Don’t automatically undercut yourself because you’ve fallen into the pattern of comparison or because you’re waiting for someone to hand it to you.
What are your strengths? Highlight those rather than your weaknesses. Focusing on your weaknesses will not make you feel any more confident. What have you achieved? Compose a compelling argument that makes it difficult for your employer to disagree and say no.
Another large component to increasing confidence levels is addressing how women are perceived. More confident women won’t necessarily eliminate unconscious bias or stop more self-assured, outspoken women from being labeled. What it will do is empower more women to call out a bias when they see it, put themselves forward and take more risks that men do. This will see more women moving up the ladder, which in turn, will provide more much needed role models, mentors, sponsors, and inspiration for women who wish to follow in their footsteps.
Equal Playing Field…Larger Gaps?
Women in other cultures and societies may not fall into the same trap. Being born into an egalitarian society, women fall victim to the comparison pattern because men continue to hold positions of greater power and status as well as earn more money. Women in the U.S. earn approximately two-thirds of what men do for similar work. Is it possible that women who live in an egalitarian society