As a female executive, I’ve seen many women professionals grow their careers and achieve incredible success in IT and other prominent industries. Unfortunately, I’ve also seen women held down in their jobs, whether it was by an outside force or through a fear that should have no place in 2018. If ascending the business ladder over the years has taught me anything about women in the workforce, it is this: confidence is paramount. At ATR, we encourage women to build and exude confidence in a number of ways.
Confidence Takes Practice
Research shows there’s a huge gap in confidence between genders, especially in the U.S. If we are to close that gap and increase female confidence, then just like building muscle or learning a new talent, it takes practice. If you have a presentation to make at work, then run through it over and over. Whether it’s the big quarterly report to the c-suite or just a five-minute weekly presentation for peers, practice makes perfect. If you’re about to get on the phone with the CEO of a client company, rehearse your opening, closing, and the big piece of information you need to convey in between.
Rehearsing meetings or calls makes you comfortable with the material that will be discussed, and increased comfort results in increased confidence. While preparing, spend a few minutes thinking about what potential questions or objections could arise during that presentation or call. The quickest way to deflate confidence in a meeting is to be asked a question you did not expect, so anticipating these points keeps you from being caught off guard.
Ask Questions (Lots of Them)
Nobody can fulfill their job’s responsibilities when they lack important information. In my years in business, I’ve often experienced a silence at the end of meetings or conversations. For various reasons, there is a clear reservation to asking questions. Unfortunately, that either results in a mistake down the road, or that question coming much later than it should have and under duress. Asking questions is essential to success in any role, and on top of that, it’s a sign of a confident professional woman.
Here’s the rule of thumb: if a question comes into your head that you don’t know the answer to, ask it. Asking questions shows foresight and critical thinking by looking ahead to potential problems and trying to proactively alleviate them. It does not indicate incompetence, which is sometimes the fear, but does the opposite. As women, it’s especially important for us to become comfortable asking questions at work. Not doing so out of an unfounded fear of how it might make us look undermines our goal to accomplish our work effectively.
Learning Confidence from Other Women
Very recently, I had the pleasure of attending the Catalyst Conference, organized by Girls in Tech. It was incredibly rewarding to be in a room with so many women inspiring each other. Through a series of TED-style talks, we discussed the next generation of female professionals, something I have long been a champion of.
The overall message of the conference was don’t be afraid to be yourself. Stand behind your opinions, move forward with a sense of curiosity, take initiative, and never stop learning. Interactions with prominent women business leaders like Amy Bohutinsky, COO of Zillow Group, Gwynne Shotwell, President & COO of SpaceX, and Danielle Feinberg, Director of Photography at Pixar, created an environment where confidence was contagious. In your daily life, find other women professionals to learn from and support, whether they’re a coworker or in one of many groups or conferences tailored to women.
Increasing Confidence for Female Professionals
Finally, always remember to maintain a healthy work-life balance. Especially in an industry like IT where the hours can be long and the pressure can be high, make sure to carve out personal time for your friends, family, and hobbies. The more balanced you feel, the happier and stronger you’ll feel during the work day. Being confident is much easier in that state of mind.
As you move more deeply into the business world, be sure to determine what you want to get out of your career and life. Put those things down on paper, tape them up next to your computer monitor, and confidently walk down the path that can help you reach those objectives. Keep your head held high, don’t be afraid to speak your mind, and watch the glass ceiling break as you continue to rise above.
Looking to connect with more female professionals like yourself? Reach out to us and get plugged into our network.