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A global survey of 250 employees by professional training company Roar Training has revealed that 71% of employees have turned down opportunities due to lack of confidence.
What’s more the research found that 51% of employees have turned down public speaking opportunities because they were worried about their performance and 16% of have even said no to a promotion because they didn’t feel they were ready.
In business we are repeatedly required to do things which require a certain amount of self belief. Standing on a stage in front of crowds, confidently selling services to strangers and sharing unfiltered ideas to coworkers can, for many of us, feel incredibly daunting.
Overcoming our fear of exclusion
As humans, we are innately social animals. In his book “Social, why our brains are wired to connect” neuroscientist Matthew Leiberman writes “our brains evolved to experience threats to our social connections in much the same way they experience physical pain. By activating the same neural circuitry that causes us to feel physical pain, our experience of social pain helps ensure [our] survival.” Our instincts are for inclusion; to be excluded, to be socially humiliated or outcast is to fear for our survival. Research tells us that “a fear of exclusion makes the motivation to protect oneself from social threats dominant”.
In other words, the nerves that so many of us feel when faced with public speaking, pitching, meetings or presentations are a completely normal, rational response to an objective social threat and it is within our nature to actively avoid these threats.
Men lack confidence, too
It is worth noting, that when averaged to the total number of responses, of the 71% who responded that they have turned down opportunities because of confidence, 51% were women and 49% were men. Of the 16% who have turned down a promotion because they did not feel ready, 58% were women, 42% were men. This supports that whilst there are social constructs that have, and continue, to hold women back in the workplace, a fear of exclusion, of not doing it right, or getting it wrong, is very much a human response.
Seniority doesn’t ensure confidence
Surprisingly, this does not vary hugely according to levels of seniority. It makes sense to think that early in your career new experiences, such as presenting your ideas to your boss, could be daunting, though managers, team leads and businesses owners were within the 71% of have turned down opportunities because of confidence.
Commenting on the findings Kirsty Hulse, Founder of Roar Training said
I believe, passionately, that we need to start acknowledging this silent fear that so many of us carry around to prevent us from feeling as though it is an internal failing on our part, rather than just a rational response to real world threats. If we do not start to openly discuss and address confidence issues in the workplace, we miss out on a rich tapestry of ideas that come from a plethora of voices. Our stages will miss out on over half of divergent ideas because we are failing to reassure those who turn down speaking opportunities for a fear of failure. Having worked with hundreds of people on their confidence over the past couple of years, what always surprises me is how most people are convinced that it is just them who feels that way.
Confidence can be developed
Confidence is not just a thing that some people have, it can be learnt, nurtured, developed and drawn upon at key moments. We can manage our nerves, regulate our emotions and develop new patterns of thinking. As neuroscience continues to uncover more of what we understand about the brain and how this impacts our behaviours, I would go as far as to say that the development of confidence within teams will stop being an elusive skill that we silently all wish we had more of and a practical skill that we work to actively attain.
Lloyd’s provided a stunning backdrop for our full-to-capacity Warrior Women at War leadership event held in partnership with ABF The Soldiers’ Charity on Wednesday 25 September.
The theme was to compare and contrast Army leadership with that in the corporate world and to discover what, if anything, each could learn from the other.
The Keynote, delivered by Major General Susan Ridge, set the tone for the evening and outlined her experience, as a lawyer, within the Army. “Whilst businesses had shareholders,” she said “the Army needed to satisfy the demands of multiple stakeholders.”
She also highlighted that in the Army it was always about “us” and not about “me”, that the ethos was one that welcomed challenge, where leadership required judgement and humility, knowing when to give people their head and when to give help, supervision and training.
In response to a question about whether the corporate world could learn from the Army’s values (Courage, Discipline, Respect for Others, Integrity, Loyalty and Selfless Commitment) Panellist, Commandant Philippa Lorimer MBE, First Aid Nursing Yeomanry (PRVC) reflected that one of the big differences between her experience in the Army and her work in private sector defence sales was the lack of “honest” communication. She said that it had taken her time to adjustment to a world where what you said didn’t necessarily happen and you knew it wasn’t going to happen.
Annette Andrews, HR Director, Lloyd’s spoke of her experience having moved from country to country as a child and how that helped her when she worked overseas and managed teams in other countries. It had enabled her to quickly adjust to new situations, to “read” people and understand other cultures.
Claire Bowler, Partner, DWF who has three young children, aged 2, 4, and 6 spoke about how flexible and agile working had helped her to progress within her career. “Within a 40-45 year career, it’s OK to take your foot off the pedal now and again,” she advised. She also encouraged women to be strategic about how they used their time when managing a high level career and family and to be selective about when to be present at work.
During the Q&A session that followed, there was much discussion about flexible working – its importance and how to ask for it (base on facts, on outputs rather than emotion) and the need for mentors, sponsors and role models.
Gwen Rhys, CEO Women in the City reminded everyone that sometimes they needed to be their own role model, citing Condoleezza Rice, former US Secretary of State who said:
Search for role models you can look up to and people who take an interest in your career. But here’s an important warning: you don’t have to have mentors or role models who look like you. Had I been waiting for a Black, female, Soviet specialist mentor, I would still be waiting. Most of my mentors have been old white men, because they were the ones who dominated my field.
Gwen added that many women felt there weren’t role models in their business that they could look up to an emulate and suggested that rather than trying to find “the one”, women should make a composite role model of the “best” traits, characteristics, behaviours of several women and men.
The post-event networking was lively, with lots of ideas and suggestions being exchanged. One idea was to set up Mentoring Groups, rather like Tutorial Groups, to encourage male mentors, who may be reluctant to mentor women 1-2-1, to participate.
|In partnership with||Sponsored by|
Warrior Women at Work is a unique, interactive Women’s Leadership event designed by Women in the City in partnership with ABF The Soldiers’ Charity. The evening will bring together senior female leaders from a variety of backgrounds to share, discuss, compare and contrast their leadership challenges.
Our Keynote Speaker will be Major General Susan Ridge, the first female to hold the rank of major general in the British Army. A solicitor, she served as Director General of the Army Legal Services Branch from September 2015 to July 2019.
Susan will be joined by a panel made up of:
- Annette Andrews, HR Director, Lloyd’s
- Claire Bowler, Partner, Head of the Insurance Sector, Head of International Claims Team, DWF and a Women in the City, Woman of Achievement Category Award Winner
- Commandant Philippa Lorimer MBE, Commanding Officer, First Aid Nursing Yeomanry (Princess Royal’s Volunteer Corps)
|Date:||25 September 2019|
|Location:||The Old Library, Lloyd’s, One Lime Street, EC3M 7HA|
|Time:||18.30 – 20.30|
|18.30||Mix & Mingle Reception|
|19.00||Welcome and Introductions|
|Keynote Speaker and Panel Interview|
This event is open to women and men. Refreshments will be served.
The evening is brought to you in partnership with:
|ABF The Soldiers’ Charity was formed in 1944, at the height of World War Two. Its purpose has not changed since that day: to ensure that all soldiers, veterans and their immediate families can live a life of independence and dignity.
While there is a British Army, there will be The Soldiers’ Charity.
And is sponsored by:
Another wasted year
Despite the Government setting a target of 33% women in leadership roles at FTSE 350 companies by 2020, and despite a flow of formal reviews, The fourth consecutive report, Women Count, produced by Pipeline shows there has been little to no progress. This independent report of the FTSE 350 has found that:
- Only 3.7% of companies have female CEOs – and this is down from 4.6% two years ago
- More than 85% of companies have no women executives on their main boards#
- Only 9% of executive directors on main boards are women, unchanged since 2017
- A mere 17.1% of executive committee members are women, a tiny increase of just 0.8% since 2018
- One in five companies have no female members of their executive committees at all
- At the current rate of progress, it will be almost 2090 before executive committees achieve gender balance#
- Just 5% of executive committee positions are held by women in roles with profit and loss2 (P&L) responsibility
- More than half of FTSE 350 companies have no women on their executive committees in a P&L role at all
- This situation is replicated on the main indices of major economies across the world, with India and Germany having no women CEOs at all, while China, Hong Kong, the USA, Spain and France have only one each
The fact is that many FTSE 350 companies are failing to offer talented women access to key executive positions as such opportunities continue to be given automatically to men.
Why does this matter?
Evidence shows that the failure to draw on a wider pool of ability actually damages the companies themselves. Those FTSE 350 companies with 25% or more women on their executive committees last year achieved an average 16% net profit margin3 while those with no women achieved just 6%. P&L roles are the pipeline for future CEOs and if women are blocked at that stage then they will not get the chance to run companies and companies will not get the chance to benefit from their broader talent pool.
Why don’t companies address the problems of gender imbalance?
Where there are already women at the top of companies, the evidence shows they are much better at progressing other female talent. Research reveals that women CEOs have twice the average number of women in executive positions than their male counterparts, and FTSE 350 companies led by women have an average of seven times more female executives on their main board than those led by men.
It is hard not to conclude that where men are in charge, they tend not to want to let go of their grip and allow women a share of the action.
6 Key Facts
1: Business performance is maximised when they promote women
2: Women on executive committees
3: It’s not just about numbers, the type of role matters
4: Female leaders succeed at progressing all talent, where male CEOs fail
5: Company boards remain a male executive preserve
6: Across the globe, it’s still a man’s world
- MAKE IT THE CEO’s RESPONSIBILITY
- ESTABLISH HARD TARGETS
- TRANSPARENCY IS KEY
Nearly three quarters of women working in law experience imposter syndrome compared with just over half of those working in construction
The overwhelming feeling of crippling self-doubt and dread known as Imposter Syndrome has impacted a whopping 62% of people at work, according to a report by Access Commercial Finance. The survey of over 3000 adults in the UK shows over two-thirds of women (66%) have suffered from imposter syndrome compared to over half of men (56%) within the last 12 months. This raises a significant question: are women more likely to experience feeling inadequate in the workplace?
In light of the study, Instant Offices delves into why many women experience this adverse phenomenon, which UK industries have the highest ratio of self-doubters and how employees can beat imposter syndrome at work.
Despite evidence of success, women experiencing this paralysing self-doubt are more likely to believe they are intellectual frauds. This level of stress – waiting to be found out by peers – can lead to anxiety, burnout and increased unhappiness among everyone from entrepreneurs to employees moving up the ladder.
As research suggests, men suffer 10% less than women, and when considering why women sometimes experience imposter syndrome at a higher rate than men, factors like workplace inequality and the pay gap may come into play.
Statistics from YouGov reveal that, when asked whether they have had the opportunity to lead on a project at work, only 44% of women said yes, compared to 59% of men. Women are also less likely to have experienced a pay rise or a bonus not connected to promotion, at only 40% compared to 53% of men. In addition, women say they are also more likely to be asked about their personal lives compared to men.
What Causes Imposter Syndrome at Work?
Imposter syndrome can severely impact career progression and cause negativity at work. When surveyed on the reasons for experiencing crippling self-doubt in the workplace, these were the top four causes:
38% – Self-generated self-doubt
23% – Being criticised
20% – Having to ask for help
16% – Self-comparisons to high achieving colleagues
It’s not just employees who are impacted, a study by AXA PPP Healthcare shows one in five small business owners admitted to suffering from imposter syndrome and being convinced someone else could do a better job of running their business.
UK Industries with the Highest Percentage of Self-Doubters
Imposter syndrome is more prolific in some industries compared to others. The same study of over 3000 UK adults revealed industries in which employees have experienced intense feelings of self-doubt in the last 12 months.
87% – Creative arts and design
79% – Environment and agriculture
79% – Information research and analysis
74% – Law
73% – Media and internet
45% – Leisure, sport and tourism
54% – Property and construction
55% – Engineering & manufacturing
55% – Insurance
57% – Retail
Turning Imposter Syndrome Around
Even though so many people have experienced imposter syndrome, the good news is that it’s not a permanent condition but rather a reaction to a set of circumstances, unrealistic self-expectation and stress. Some of the most popular suggestions on ways to turn it around include the following:
Accept Praise And Know Your Worth
Don’t shy away from praise and compliments. Accept your achievements and if need be, write them down. When you try to talk yourself out of feeling confident in your role, all the proof is on paper. Knowing your worth means allowing your work to speak for itself and letting others see it too.
Stop Thinking Like an Imposter
Learn to recognise self-defeating thought patterns and replace them with more positive affirmations. The only way to stop feeling like an imposter is to stop thinking of yourself as one.
Don’t Seek Perfection
Stop believing that if you don’t excel at every facet of your job that you’re a failure at all of it. Facing challenges and losses is a key part of growth, so recognise that you don’t have to be good at everything.
Know You Are Not Alone
Imposter syndrome tends to be the domain of overachievers, while underachievers tend to internalise less when faced with failure. If you’re constantly worried about not being good enough, chances are you’re in good company – most successful people constantly over analyse themselves!
Speaking from experience, Jodie Harris, Head of Content & Digital PR at MediaVision commented,
The feeling of thinking someone is going to come in and call you out on your experience, your achievements and put you in a league much lower than you are currently working at is very real. Imposter Syndrome can happen at any time in your career.
From being an intern to being in the boardroom, questioning your place at the table can be disruptive to your progress and your confidence. One piece of advice I always tell my teams and myself is that your career did not come by chance, and where you are now and where you aim to be is justified. Know your worth and have conviction with your career goals. Success isn’t a lottery ticket, it’s earnt.