Confidence is the key to a woman’s career development

P = P – I

Potential equals performance minus interference

The impact of lack of confidence (the interference) on a woman’s career development can be huge.  Last year I worked with a Senior Associate in a law firm who had been identified as ‘Partner’ material.  She looked the part, sounded the part and came across as competent, skilled and professional.  She was receiving great client feedback and her Partner was supporting her promotion.

She was also a recent maternity returner, with an 18-month old daughter.  During our second coaching session, we began to talk about her professional goals and her barriers to achieving them (or her ‘interferences’).  It quickly became very evident that her confidence was hugely holding her back from taking the first step to her promotion.  She is not alone!  I meet so many wonderfully talented, skilled professional women who decide not to climb the career ladder simply because they ‘don’t feel good enough.’ Confidence is one of the key aspects to a woman’s career development.

Sheryl Sandberg refers to these interferences in her book ‘Lean In’: ‘These internal obstacles deserve a lot more attention, in part because they are under our control.’  In fact, she has called her first chapter ‘The Leadership Ambition Gap – what would you do if you weren’t afraid?’

Is this just a ‘woman’s issue?’  Yes, according to an article ‘The Confidence Gap’ in The Atlantic, whorecently reported that women lag behind men in terms of salary and career development because of their lack of confidence.   Success, it turns out, correlates just as closely with confidence as it does with competence. No wonder that women, despite all our progress, are still woefully underrepresented at the highest levels.’

At a time when many women choose to take time out of the workplace to raise a family, men are at the peak of their careers.  Many of them are becoming fathers themselves and see their career as a way to protect their family unit financially, so surge forward in their ambitions.  When we take 6 months or a year out of the business, it takes time to re-integrate into the business and re-gain our networks, skill level and – of course – our confidence.

So what can we do about it?  Annie Ashdown, confidence coach and author of The Confidence Factor recommends:

‘Make your goal each day to improve a habit, a thought, a behaviour, rather than criticising yourself each time. Challenge and change your inner critic by stating positive affirmations every day for four weeks and then keep it going consistently so you create new neural pathways in your brain. I promise you that your anxiety levels will decrease and your confidence and self-esteem will rocket. I can’t emphasise enough how imperative it is to keep on top of this. Your job is to take daily action to  strengthen your confidence muscles, and you will learn what works and what doesn’t. This process increases your skills so you can then make smarter choices. Do not wait to feel worthy of making changes, just make them now, a small step at a time will bring big results to build your self –confidence and self –esteem’.


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