Every woman has experienced something like this: being ignored in a meeting, not included in a client dinner, interrupted while speaking, told she’s being “emotional” when she disagrees or feels strongly about something, passed over for opportunities, or asked to grab the snacks for the meeting.
I recently listened to a panel of female CFOs warn an audience of thousands of women about these daily hits a woman can face as she climbs the ladder. One executive in her late 50s, the CFO of a $400 million company, recounted the time she was asked to take notes during a meeting with her male colleagues. It happened last year. (“I laughed and said no,” she said.)
The key to reversing this is teaching confidence to girls and women, who too often silence themselves with the habits of hesitation and self-doubt.
Confidence is one of the most important skills you can have in life.
Notice, I said skill. For a long time I misunderstood confidence. I thought it was a personality trait or a feeling. It’s neither. It’s a skill that you develop through deliberate action — something to be actively encouraged in colleagues and friends, daughters and sisters.
Confidence is the ability to “hear” your own ideas and lean into them — to raise your hand, raise your standards, raise your concerns and raise your voice. To persist — knowing that whether you succeed or fail, are criticized or applauded, you’ll survive. The more you act, the more competency builds and it gets easier to put yourself out there the next time.
Elizabeth Warren is a woman who displays tremendous confidence. As a senator, she is fearless and unwavering in her questioning and an excellent example of one of my favorite quotes from activist Maggie Kuhn: “Speak your mind — even if your voice shakes.” Warren is one of the few people who isn’t afraid of crossing Donald Trump, at every turn.
But persist is exactly what we and all of our daughters need to do to succeed. Despite what they say about you or how much you doubt yourself, persist.
On a practical level here is how to do this:
Speak, even when your voice shakes. No one can take your confidence away from you. Only you can do that. You don’t have to feel ready or think you’re the kind of “person who would do such a thing.” You can.
That’s confidence — the decision to bet on yourself. Warren may have been shut down on the Senate floor, but she didn’t shut up. She spoke up.
That is the message that should be heard by women everywhere — if it matters to you, persist. Confidence isn’t about what other people say or do. It’s about what you say and do. We women and all of our daughters need to say and do a lot more, and a lot more often.