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50ft Women confidence workshop

Take a deep breath’, ‘just do it’ and, slightly more to the point, ‘do or die’, are some of the mantras we left with from the 50ft Women confidence workshop led by Emma Reynolds from Catseye Development.

This workshop was not entirely about how to make a room full of women more confident, but how to address those lingering issues confident women face in the workplace. Surrounded by researchers, fundraisers, TV producers, administrators and self-employed artists, it struck me that there was a lot to be said for the similarities felt amongst this varied group of people.

One such similarity was the battle of our ‘inner voice’ vs ‘outer voice’; how that running dialogue in your head affects not only how confident you feel, but how confident others think you are. We’ve all been in the situation where you’ve been given a job to do and instantly second guess yourself. One remedy for this was to think: ‘Possibility, Ability and Worthiness’.

We also explored how to maintain confidence in stressful situations and why it’s important to breach the gap between how you feel, how you mean to appear and what signals you’re actually giving off. It’s not unheard of to come across a little more off-kilter than you intended.

A crucial problem we discussed, was the fear of appearing overconfident. This is just a small part of a long running debate on gender inequality – why is it a strong, opinionated man is praised for his qualities when a woman with the same attributes is labelled a bitch? Why should women feel bad for being ambitious and competitive? The Confidence Gap, written by BBC broadcaster Katty Kay and ABC News reporter Claire Shipman, argues that women’s distinct lack of confidence holds them back in the workplace. The book claims that women are great at everything, but just don’t know they are. Is this our inner voice again, bringing us hurtling back down to earth?

It’s worth considering, however, that the mere fact an outwardly confident woman can have the modern day scarlet letter pinned to her chest – a big, shiny ‘B’ that she’ll have to wear for the rest of her career – may not be due to her innate self-doubt, but because the people around her think ‘ambition’ is a dirty word.

This is not to say that men never feel insecure (we’re all sensitive creatures, after all), but the figures speak for themselves. A study by the Institute of Leadership and Management showed that less than a third of male British managers surveyed felt self-doubt about their job performance, compared to half of female respondents. The well-known study of Hewlett Packard employees showed that women only applied for a promotion when they felt they met 100% of the listed specifications, compared to 60% for their male counterparts.

It’s still up for discussion whether this is solely down to women’s lack of self-confidence or the entrenched gender discrimination we meet in the workplace. We’re no longer at the stage where, as Aretha Franklin and the Eurythmics belted out, “we’re coming out of the kitchen” but there is arguably still a long way to go.

Ultimately, there is still hope that without fear of judgement, a woman can say (as Emma declared) “Yeah! I AM s*** hot!” and mean it.



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