Such was the positive response to our first Women in Business Development Event earlier in the year that on Thursday 22nd November Julie hosted another opportunity for like-minded women, once again at the IOD in central London. 

On this occasion, the keynote speaker was Jan Hills, Managing Director of Head, Heart + Brain and co-author of Brain-savvy Woman. Jan helps leaders to run better businesses through the application of behavioural sciences and has a particular interest and expertise in inclusion and diversity so was ideally placed to lead the discussion and to impart some of her knowledge to the group. With lots of tips and takeaways, the response to the event was emphatically positive. So, in a nutshell? 

 

Women Lack Self-Confidence: Myth or Reality? 

Is it really just women who suffer from creaking self-confidence, imposter syndrome and a desire to be accepted yet at the same time retain our uniqueness and still remain authentic? Why do women spend so much time feeling like their success is down to luck or that they are imminently going to be ‘found out’? Is it because women see self-deprecation and modesty as more ’charming’, or that successful women challenge society’s expectations of their gender? So, what do we do about this? One theory is that men might have the same inner-dialogue going on but just don’t talk about it as much as women. Perhaps there, in itself, is a solution! In neurological terms there’s certainly a very interesting phenomenon going on when we proclaim ourselves unworthy of our achievements – that self-fulfilling prophecy will almost certainly come true so beware of what you say as your own words will reinforce the circuitry in the brain and increase the likelihood of failure. Instead, remind yourself of your strengths and what you’ve achieved. 

 

How to Self Promote… without Bragging 

Another theory is that women are simply not confident in pushing themselves forward, but the truth is probably more than women just project self-confidence in a different way. Whilst confident men are tagged as ‘assertive’ and ‘assured’ these traits in women are viewed as negative. So how can women self-promote without bragging? After an opportunity to consider this question the delegates were treated to Jan Hills’ top tips:

  • Make sharing your own and your teams’ successes a regular thing, in the form of a newsletter or email
  • Ask a trusted colleague or someone else to blow your trumpet for you
  • Share client or supplier feedback with your bosses 
  • Use language you’re comfortable with (i.e. I enjoy negotiating… sends the same message as I’m good at ..), and let your Out of Office brag for you (if you’re absent because you are leading a pitch to a big corporate client…say so!)  

 

Dealing with the Backlash 

So, what if we do find the confidence to be proud of our achievements and self-promote? Well, then there’s just the possible backlash to contend with! Yes, we all know that assertive women are often described as ball breakers, or worse. So how should women go about managing the social penalties that often come with success in business? Research has found that explicit assertion (making demands, speaking out) is indeed seen as undesirable right across the gender spectrum, albeit women receive stronger negative responses. By utilising confident body language, eye contact and speaking without hesitation it IS possible to project confidence implicitly without people consciously noticing it.

The group learned that confidence comes from inside but presence is the external manifestation and that you need to work on the one to improve the other. People with presence are seen as authentic and passionate – that’s because neurologically when we are confident about a subject our cognitive abilities are able to synchronise body language, tone and words. So, how to begin? Jan encouraged discussion and sharing of experiences before concluding that the key is to get your inner confidence right and your outer presence will grow. Try thinking of yourself in 3 words and running a video in your head of you displaying one or more of those characteristics; stand tall, use expansive gestures, reframe nervousness as excitement; act confident (even if you are not quite there yet) and above all, avoid the ihunch – that characteristic bending over your electronics screams a lack of confidence. 

 

What’s Next?

The feedback on the event was that attendees were delighted to have the space to work ‘safely’ with other professional women who share similar experiences, and also that there is an appetite for further sessions to build on the insights from Jan’s workshop. So, we are delighted to advise that the next Women’s Development Event will be taking place on 28th March 2019 and that this will be a practical and interactive session on Becoming Confident, Credible and Competent Women: Developing Impact and Presence. Our Keynote Speaker will be Tasneem Siddiqui, Radio 4 Broadcaster and Corporate Trainer in Leadership, Management and Media skills. 

Please save the date. Invitations to be sent out shortly. 

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