In this year’s Fortune 500 list, a record number of 33 companies had female CEOs. It was a considerable jump from last year’s 24 female CEOs. But it still represents just 6.6 percent of the companies.
Sure, we’re making progress, but we have so much farther to go. So, what can women do to really build up their confidence so they can get to the leadership positions that they deserve?
Know Your Value’s Daniela Pierre-Bravo recently sat down with Katty Kay and Claire Shipman, co-authors of “The Confidence Code” and “The Confidence Code for Girls” to hear their tips about how women in the workplace can build confidence.
Play up your strengths
“We need to start having more transparent conversations about our management style, the way we lead, what we think our strengths are—with whether it’s supervisors, colleagues, people who control our futures,” Shipman told Know Your Value.
“Women will come up to us and say, ‘well what if I don’t want to start the meeting’, ‘I don’t want to be the first person to speak,’ ‘I’m better at listening’, for example,” Shipman added. “We say, make that a virtue, explain that that is your strength so that you’re owning it and naming it instead of cowering in a corner thinking, I don’t have what it takes.”
Shipman doesn’t think women are alone on this journey. “Men are ready to have this conversation too,” she said. “They’re looking for ways to make this work.”
Kay encouraged women to start taking risks. She gives an example: “You want to ask for a pay raise, and you’re worried that you might come across as being too pushy or that they won’t give it to you,” Kay said. “A way to perhaps help you do that is to think through in your mind, what’s the very worst thing that’s going to happen if you take a risk and it fails.”
She explained that nearly nine times out of 10, what you imagine is actually much worse than what actually happens. “The very worst thing that’s going to happen is your boss is saying no, but you’ve already then put it on the radar that you want it and you think you deserve it, you’ve already made your mark so you’ve put a stake in the ground,” Kay said. “There’s no downside to that.”
Kay warned that girls can often be “catastrophists.” She explained, “One little thing goes wrong, and the rest of their life is like a drama and is never going to happen. You get a B grade in school and suddenly you’ve gone from failing middle school to failing high school to failing college to living under a bridge with no friends in about 20 seconds.”
Women, in general, need to let go of the negative thinking and embrace taking risks.
Don’t overanalyze feedback
“Women take feedback very differently than men do,” Shipman warned. “They will know they need to offer feedback and then say, ‘what did you hear me say. No actually…’” She said she had one person joke that they’d give the same review to a man and a woman and “the man will think he’s getting a promotion and the woman will think she’s losing her job.”
“It’s that acute, the difference, and smart managers will start to understand how to deal with that,” Shipman said.
Seek out the right mentors
“It’s not just about finding female mentors,” Shipman added. “Male mentors are so important and often can give women exactly that sort of push in the way of risk taking or just shrug it off advice that women will find harder to offer.”
So embrace mentors of both genders and welcome the advice they have to offer. Male mentors may look at things from another perspective and can enlighten you or encourage you to take the necessary risks to reach the next level.
Let go of perfection
“I had one female leader say to me recently, the world has been run by mediocre men for centuries, mediocre women would be just fine too,” Kay said.
“In a way, I almost want to women to embrace that standard. You do not have to be perfect to raise your hand in a meeting, ask for a pay raise, go for a risk assignment, change jobs. You don’t need to be perfect, you’re already pretty good,” Kay added.