Does a lack of confidence hinder a woman's career progression?

Employers aren't offering enough training, says women's leadership development expert Joy Burnford.

by Joy Burnford
Last Updated: 15 Aug 2019

In many ways, women have come a long way in the workforce. There’s increasing commitment to gender diversity, more efforts to get women on boards and gender pay reporting is gaining ground. However, we are still 108 years away from achieving gender equality, according to the World Economic Forum

Why is this? And what changes can organisations make to support their women to move up the career ladder? If we want a more inclusive and diverse workplace, where everyone can thrive and be valued, something has to change.

Some initial findings from a new piece of research by My Confidence Matters* shows that out of a total of 635 responses (the majority of whom are women), 76 per cent lack confidence on a regular basis and only 20 per cent said they rarely lacked confidence.

Nearly half the respondents so far (46 per cent) said that "appearing confident but not feeling confident" stopped them making the impact they wanted at work. In addition to this, the survey asks respondents how much support they think they would get from their manager if they were suffering from a lack of confidence. Just under half said that they would either get "no support" or "not enough support" from their managers and no-one responded "too much".

So, what can organisations do to help women, in particular, make the most of their confidence if this is proving to be a challenge when it comes to career progression?

We were interested to know what support is currently offered to employees to foster leadership development. The areas where organisations were currently offering support included coaching and mentoring, leadership skills training, flexible working and talent/rising stars programmes. The areas where respondents felt organisations could focus more effort included internal sponsorship (71 per cent of respondents wanted their organisations to offer this), public speaking confidence (57 per cent) and strategic networking skills (66 per cent).

Confidence is just one part of the picture, and the research also looks at other potential barriers to career progression. Of those that want to reach a more senior position at work, the top three obstacles that have been identified so far are:

-- No visibility of internal opportunities (39 per cent)

-- Concern that others don’t have confidence in my abilities (35 per cent)

-- Lack of confidence and belief in own ability (34 per cent) 

So, if you are someone who is an advocate of gender equality in the workplace, take a moment to consider how confident your potential leaders really are and whether they might be open to further support to help them to conquer their confidence.

*The research is a large-scale study launched by My Confidence Matters in association with Dr Geraldine Perriam of the University of Glasgow, designed to examine the differences between the genders in the workplace and whether or not this has an impact on the route to the top of the career ladder. As at 25 July 2019, the survey had 635 responses, the majority are in full-time employed roles in large organisations

If you would like to add your views to this research (the deadline is 31 August 2019), you can complete the survey here.

Joy Burnford is the founder and director of My Confidence Matters and an authority on women’s leadership development

Image credit: Lucas Souza/Pexels



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