Money & Business

Five Lessons For Women To Help Close The Confidence Gap

By / Aug 13, 2015 (Jacob Wackerhausen/ThinkStock)

The confidence gap, specifically as it relates to women, was main stage at one of the 2015 ASAE Annual Meeting & Exposition Learning Labs this week. Find out some of the advice and lessons that were shared to help more women close the gap.

In her 10 years working with and coaching leaders, Carol Vernon, certified executive coach and principal of Communication Matters, said one of the primary issues she comes across again and again, primarily in women, is the issue of confidence, or lack of confidence.

“It’s a gap for lots of us,” Vernon said at the “Closing the Confidence Gap in Women Leadership” Learning Lab on Tuesday at the 2015 ASAE Annual Meeting and Exposition in Detroit. “Sometimes it’s a little gap. Sometimes it’s a big gap. It’s a multi-layered piece.”

During the session, Vernon and her co-presenters, Janet Bandows Koster, CAE, executive director and CEO at the Association for Women in Science, and Antoinette Samuel, FASAE, CAE, deputy executive director at the National League of Cities, broached the issue of confidence and how it can hold women back. They also shared some steps women can take to overcome the divide.

Samuel, for example, shared five lessons that she’s learned from her own career that helped her own her confidence. Take a look at her advice:

Confidence can’t be faked. Be your authentic self, Samuel said. You don’t need to be the loudest or funniest person at the table if that’s not who you are, and it’s important to accept that about yourself.

“I started my career very early, and I found that because of my look, because of my size, because of my age, that in order to get people to pay attention to me, maybe I had to speak loud or I had to do something in terms of carrying the bigger stick, but what I’ve learned over time is that was not me,” Samuel added.

Always demand confidence in your competence. Samuel told the story of when a new president came on board of an association where she was the executive, and the new president emailed almost every day trying to tell her what she should be doing with staff, programs, and other operations.

“At that point I knew I had a decision to make that I was not going to be in a position not having leadership having confidence in my competence,” Samuel said.

So, she sent an email asking the president to have confidence in her competence so that they could both be successful at moving the organization forward. And he then realized the effects of his actions, which worked to create a better relationship between the two.  “It was a turning point for me to stand strong about what I felt was my confidence,” Samuel said.

Sometimes confidence is personified by opportunity and the courage to act. During a crisis or emergency, women tend to step up, and it’s a great opportunity to build confidence.

“Don’t shy away from stepping up,” Samuel said. “It’s a true confidence builder that when you’re facing a crisis or emergency situation that you can put yourself out there and have the courage to act.” Samuel said.

The journey is yours. You have to earn your journey and not follow someone else’s, said Samuel, who used the example of the time she accepted a position as a deputy executive director after serving as the CEO of a small organization.

Most people questioned why she would take a job with a lesser title, but to Samuel the move made sense. She was going to an organization she loved that had a bigger budget and staff, and she would have additional responsibility.

“The move kept me on the track that I had been on,” Samuel said. “I had to have the confidence to know that it was OK and to make the decision that was right for me.”

Understand your own personal obstacles to building your confidence. Samuel, for example, was born blind in one eye, which made her feel self-conscious that she wasn’t making eye contact when speaking in front of groups. But, the more she made herself talk in front of groups and the more she made herself look others in the eye, the more confident she felt.

Her fears faded even more with time and experience, and “the fact that I just decided that I don’t care,” Samuel said.

Do you have advice on overcoming the confidence gap? Please share in the comments.

Katie Bascuas

Katie Bascuas is associate editor of Associations Now. More »

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