Women in Business
Women in Business: Confidence & Gender Equality in the Workplace
I have a love hate relationship with the term ‘Women in Business’. After all, ‘Men in Business’ is a phrase society has deemed neither fit nor necessary to use.
Despite the number of women in business generally and indeed in positions of power being on the rise, the fact remains that at a global level, women account for less than a quarter of management positions. To this end, the movement towards gender equality in the workplace still has a way to go.
An article by Rhett Power written recently for www.inc.com however instructs that rather than pushing for more women in the workplace simply to meet a quota, gender diversity is actually the key to any company’s success.
Power continues that through diversification within a number of top positions and more specifically, executive roles, gender balance is “more than a movement to level the corporate playing field – it’s about using the best resources to maximize every organisation’s potential”.
Undeniably, it’s a core group of aspirational women (including Sheryl Sandberg, Jacinda Ardern, Christine Lagarde, Michelle Obama and the indomitable Oprah Winfrey to name but a few) that come to mind when I think of strong women making their mark in their respective industries.
“Thinking of changing your workplace, changing the way the world thinks, that’s big and it gets daunting… So start with what you can control. And that’s you first.” Michelle Obama
Closer to home (read Australia) and I’m consistently inspired by entrepreneurs such as Naomi Simson and Zoë Foster Blake not to mention Mia Freedman and Holly Ransom as stand-out female leaders with consistently strong voices.
That’s not to say I haven’t learnt some of my best lessons in business and my private life through a number of amazing male mentors, including former bosses, business coaches, my husband, brother in law and my father.
What I will say however is the immense pride I feel in the gender equality movement towards empowering women and for my own personal journey, recognising and understanding that we shouldn’t hold back nor put our ambition on hold in an effort to prove our worth first.
Such is one avenue of thought as to why women aren’t as present in highflying roles as our male counterparts – that of confidence in our abilities.
In an opinion piece for ABC News, Leonora Risse recently wrote that women famously over invest in becoming job ready. Quotations from Canadian Nobel Prize winner Donna Strickland support this notion, telling of her reluctance to apply for a promotion until the accolade had first been achieved.
Similarly, a Cornell University study found that while men overestimate their abilities and performance, women underestimate both. What is fascinating to note here however is that actual performance does not differ in quality or quantity.
Success, it turns out, correlates just as closely with confidence as it does with competence.
When I think back to my (increasingly long) list of inspirational women, Amelia Earhart also comes to mind. A woman who had the confidence, belief that she could achieve and the willingness to go after the impossible, in the then male dominated field of aviation. (Side note, today in Australia female commercial airline pilots still only account for 3% of the industry).
Still, some say that the problem isn’t that women aren’t confident but that confidence in women is just not rewarded effectively in the workplace. Enter tall poppy syndrome as to a potential reason why Australian women are hesitant to talk up their accomplishments – because they are often cut back down to size when they do.
I continue to be mindful of current statistics and hope that our small contribution to not only speaking up and taking our place at the table, but also employing without bias will contribute to changing the world one workplace at a time. My genuine passion is for the next generation of young women to do the same.
Annika is passionate about women’s education and has previously held the position of Director of School Council and Director of Foundation for St Aidan’s Anglican Girls School, Brisbane.