Speak up and put yourself forward for opportunities at work
It pays to focus on what you're good at, recognize the value of your soft skills and put yourself forward for promotion At school and university, female students consistently achieve higher GCSE and A-level results and take up more undergraduate places than their male peers - yet this achievement does not translate to career success. Currently, just 16% of director seats are women - and MSCI reports it will take until 2027 for women to hold just 30% of global board seats.
So if women are achieving academically, what is holding them back in their careers? It starts in the teen years. Research from Girlguiding shows that most girls' career confidence plummets during adolescence.
And these insecurities continue into working life: a survey showed that almost 50% of women believe they would be further in their career if they had more self-belief - with half of women saying they have been burdened by these insecurities since school (only one in 10 said it started in the workplace).
This lack of self-confidence could be preventing young women from excelling in their careers and securing the same high-level positions as men.
Some women also experience a drop in confidence mid-career. For example, returning to work after maternity leave can leave many feeling concerned that they have missed too much - with one in three women returning to find their job "unrecognizable" to the one they left. So, what should women do to boost confidence and get ahead at work? Here's three tips women can use in the workplace:
Focus on what you're good at
"Follow your passion" is a cliché, but for women it might be better to choose a career that uses their best skills - instead of their passion. Success can come from refining the skills that you already possess, rather than worrying if your job is right for you.
Focusing on your best skills and drawing confidence from knowing that you are good at your job can help you thrive at work. We know we can't be good at everything, so it is still a good idea to practice doing things you lack confidence in.
But when it comes to putting yourself forward for an opportunity, whether you are negotiating a promotion, training or more responsibility - lead with your best skills and then talk about the skills you are developing. You will naturally have more confidence in discussing the areas that you know you are good at, and those you have repeatedly practiced.
Recognize the value of your soft skills
Research shows that women are likely to be better listeners and collaborators - so you should make the most of these skills in the workplace. Being welcoming and sociable is essential to sustain strong business relationships, so focus on building a social network at work to highlight these skills.
Likewise, when it comes to interviews and appraisals, focus on emphasizing your soft skills such as being a strong communicator, or a good team player - and make sure you are able to explain why they are valuable to the business. Life skills count for a lot and an employer will not necessarily just be looking for someone who can get the job done, but will also fit in with their culture and gel with work colleagues. So draw confidence from emphasizing social skills to show you are a well-rounded individual.
In the workplace, women are less likely to put themselves forward for opportunities, as they doubt their capability more so than men. When it comes to appraisals, this can mean that they are overlooked for progression.
To counter this, it's a good idea to consciously put yourself forward for opportunities - whether it is leading on a new project, attending an event or organizing the office party.
Doing this means you are more likely to be noticed, and it will give you tangible examples to draw on during job interviews and appraisals, meaning you're more likely to stand out and succeed. We know the world needs more female managers, leaders and chief executives. However, we also know that not everyone wants a top job.
The point is, regardless of what people's aspirations are, we need to help women of all ages reach their goals, and I believe the key to that is by building career confidence.
The writer is a business director and motivational speaker
of Active Digital (UK).
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