Radical Confidence at Work for Women in IT


“Confidence is the stuff that turns thoughts into action” – Richard Petty, OSU Professor

The second module of Women Rising is about radical confidence. The central lesson to take away from this session is that to be confident is to show your most authentic self, genuinely and openly, instead of trying to fake it ‘till you make it. Real, radical confidence can’t be faked.

At the workplace, women sometimes demonstrate less confidence than their male counterpart, even if they’re at very high-level roles. Some examples include that woman are less likely to ask for pay raises at work, women are less likely to apply for a job even if they’re more qualified than a male applicant, and women tend to apply less for leadership positions. Many women also experience ‘impostor syndrome’, which makes them feel that they do not deserve the position or role they’re in.

Research has revealed a few reasons for this disparity in confidence between women and men. They can be grouped in the following categories: nature and nurture. Women tend to avoid conflict and risk and seek more safety and harmony than men. Regarding nurturing, there are factors from upbringing and society that impact the confidence of women. Society traditionally used to relate certain traits to leadership, most of which were ‘male’ traits, this is rapidly changing. Although, it still has an impact on women’s day to day beliefs and behaviours.

Luckily, confidence is not a fixed trait, it’s a skill that can be worked on and strengthened. The roadmap from the Women Rising sessions aims to increase confidence through three aspects:

  • Being authentic – leveraging your strengths to build confidence
  • Thinking less – how to tame the inner critic?
  • Getting to action – how do we flex our growth mindset?

Now you may be wondering, how do you achieve authenticity and leverage your strengths? Typically, management practices tend to focus on employee weaknesses and the need to fix these. Very few times is the focus put on strengths, which can be quite damaging to confidence. In the average workplace, 86% of staff disengage from work. So, how do you effectively increase engagement? Simple, all it takes is highlighting the individual’s strengths.

Let’s shift our attention to a research lead by the Corporate Leadership Council in 2005. Studying 19,000 employees, researchers found that when management focused on employee strengths, there would be a 36% increase in productivity. In comparison, for organisations that focus on employee weaknesses, there was a 26% decrease in performance.

Moving on to our second point: thinking less. It’s no secret that the gears in our brains are constantly processing what we believe to be true and what we think we deserve. These thoughts, if left uncontrolled, can derail us from achieving higher confidence. Bringing back nature and nurture, the area that processes fear and anxiety is larger in women. This means that it can make it easier to ruminate or engage in negative thinking.

Tackling this will take time and practice; you’re unlikely to see results overnight. First, you have to identify the stories that are keeping you in this cycle of negative thinking. Then, you must rationalise and re-write them to create a truer and more impartial version of these stories.

And finally, the last step of the roadmap is to get into action. We need a growth mindset. You must tell yourself that any characteristic can be improved, re-learned, and changed if you work hard enough. The opposite of this is a fixed mindset, which is led by fear and a belief that the way things are can’t be changed. Believing that we can improve is the first step to improving at any task or role.