20 Ways To Curb The Confidence Gap That’s Crippling Women’s Careers


Confident woman


Elana Konstant
Elana Konstant
Did you ever have that colleague who lauded himself as the company’s greatest asset all while delivering sub-par results forcing the whole team to work much harder?
I know I did. For the four years that I worked in this office, I kept expecting him to get laid off. Instead, he was consistently promoted and is still there a decade later as an executive.   It took me years to realize why. In the workplace, confidence matters as much as, if not more than, competence.  

In an article for the Atlantic magazine, the authors of The Confidence Code, Katty Kay and Claire Shipman wrote, “Confidence is a belief in one’s ability to succeed, a belief that stimulates action. In turn, taking action bolsters one’s belief in one’s ability to succeed. So confidence accumulates—through hard work, through success, and even through failure.” We know that confidence is inextricably linked to high performance. Self-confident people are more successful in all areas of life and successful people have high self-confidence. The main impediment for people with low self-confidence is the reluctance to accept challenges beyond their comfort zone. Professional growth requires breaking through your limits to get to the next level. 

Equally important for career success is recognizing that the way you view yourself affects others. A Journal of Personality and Social Psychology study showed that those who appeared more confident achieved a higher social status than their peers. Within a work environment, those higher-status individuals tended to be more admired, listened to, and influential over group decisions. Most telling, incompetent people are often promoted over their more competent peers. 

Unsurprisingly, given the disparate values that boys and girls are taught from childhood, men are inclined to overvalue their strengths, while women are inclined undervalue theirs. Many women experience Imposter Syndrome, where they fear being exposed as an inadequate fraud. Discussing these feelings with others, particularly mentors, is an effective way to recognize how widespread these anxieties are while also getting constructive feedback to debunk these ideas.

In a definite show of progress, more attention has been paid in recent years to the divisions between males and females in the area of confidence in the workplace. Last year, a comprehensive study by the accounting firm KPMG on women and leadership showed some startling statistics demonstrating the need for continued change.  While 66% of the 3,000 women analyzed expressed a desire to become a senior leader, only 40% actually envisioned themselves doing so. Two-thirds of women said they were cautious about sharing their opinion at work or taking steps to become leaders. The survey also found that men initiate salary negotiations four times as much as women do, and women typically ask for 30% less money than men when they do negotiate. 

There are always going to be intimidating people, overwhelming projects, and opportunities that you fear will cause failure rather than success. Letting your insecurity prevail can be a major hindrance in achieving career goals. Here are 20 things you can do to get beyond it and boost your professional confidence:

1.  Self-affirmations:  Create a system of mantras, symbols, and other reminders for positive thinking.  Researchers have found it effective if you speak to yourself in the third person to treat yourself like someone else.

2.  Ask questions:  Get the information you need to do the project right!  Show your initiative and your willingness to learn and work collaboratively with others. 

3.  Share your thoughts:  Do not be afraid to speak up and share your valuable opinion to enlighten and be enlightened by others.  

4.  Ask for feedback:  You need to know the good and the bad in order to grow so do not wait for a performance review or a warning.  Asking shows how much you care about your work.

5.  Challenge yourself:  Go beyond your comfort zone and ask to be staffed on a totally new assignment with leadership potential, or force yourself to learn a new skill 

6.  Let go of perfect:  That just is not going to happen, for you or anyone else.  You will allow yourself to take more risks once you set more reasonable expectations. 

7.  When you can, far exceed expectations:  Ring in new partnerships, get reports done early, or implement a more efficient system.  Make others feel confident in you!  

8.  Accountability Partner:  Partner with others for peer coaching to create a positive change. Choose someone who works closely enough to see you in action and give real feedback.

9.  Celebrate your successes:  Feel good about your accomplishments so that they can keep coming. Internalize and promote your achievements for others to notice. 

10.  Word choice:  Remove “Sorry,” “I Think,””Maybe,””But,” or “I can’t.”  Instead try stronger language, like “How Could I?” “And,” “We will.”  You undermine yourself by not valuing your opinion.

11.  Fake It Till You Make It:  Act confident and you will start feeling confident.  Walk with purpose, make eye contact, and smile. Visualize yourself in the role you want and feel it. 

12.  Look the part:  Have respect for your coworkers and your workplace. Be serious about how you look, act, and respect how others perceive you.

13.  Build relationships with people at work:  Find out who people are beyond the office walls.  Make those connections and strengthen the camaraderie at work. 

14.  Own Mistakes:  Acknowledge and learn from them rather than make excuses about them.  Use errors as motivation to prove your own growth.

15.  See Yourself As A Business:  Establish career goals and action plans to achieve them.  Elect your own personal board of directors (mentors, friends, former colleagues) to hold you accountable.

16.  Take StockEvery quarter force yourself to examine your current professional development. Ask for feedback to determine where you are lacking and need to expand skillset. 

17.  Track Accomplishments:  Make a weekly list of notable achievements. Use your accomplishment list to excel in your performance review and demonstrate your worth.

18.  Build Your Brand:  Create a narrative of your value and make sure all of your marketing materials (social media, elevator pitch, resume, cover letter) speak to it consistently.

19. Manage Your Reputation:  Control impressions of you by ensuring that what others can see is aligned with your brand.  Set yourself apart through articles, speaking engagements, and other opportunities to establish your expertise.

20.  Network:  Find the people who are thought leaders in your profession.  Connect and ask for other contacts. Meet as many people as possible, follow up, and pay it forward.
Elana Konstant is a career coach and consultant focusing on professional women in career transition. A former lawyer, she founded Konstant Change Coaching to empower women to create the career they want. Change is good. Elana will help you find out why. Her career advice has been featured on Glamour.com, Babble, Motherly, and other outlets. You can learn more by visiting her website, konstantchangecoaching.com


Fairygodboss is committed to improving the workplace and lives of women.
Join us by reviewing your employer!