5 Findings from Studying Women's Confidence Levels

Recently we were honored to be a part of an EmpowHER event in association with The Glow Effect. At the start, the women in attendance took our Confidence Index. This had two purposes in relation to the event's design: firstly, to enable reflection amongst the attendees that would set up the correct mind-set for deeper discussions, and secondly, to allow us to see the barriers and strengths present amongst those in the room. This enabled us to present a personalized event as well as support shared drivers between the women in attendance, creating a safe environment for vulnerability.

The event was wonderful and the insights gained are fantastic. What we saw that day was that the truth is, each and every one of us is not alone in our moments of lower confidence. Even the person that can be perceived as outgoing and confident has their own internal struggles, and quite often feelings or a story (or multiple) about something that you might never even suspect would have happened to them. This is because when it comes to confidence there is always both the external perception and the internal self often hidden by it - our confidence, or thoughts, and our mind-sets.

Looking at the confidence of the women at the event we found various patterns. While each person was at their own point in their individual journey (on which the Confidence Index covers over 70 attributes), I thought it would be interesting to share some of the common patterns that we found with a view to demonstrating that no one is alone in their struggles - we all have things to work on, to develop, and, we can all help each other to get there.

1: High Performance in Strengths That Indicate the Ability to Build Great Relationships

Some of the strongest shared attributes present among the women in attendance were active listening, the ability to motivate people and humility. These are all great traits that, when developed, can help build great relationships with others - be that with friends, family, colleagues, customers, or employees. These traits can help them inspire, coach, and mentor others which in turn builds trusting bonds and creates inviting lines of communication.

2: Many Found They May Be Too Much of a People Pleaser

Many of the women found that they tended to try and please everybody; they would try to fit many things into their lives even if they knew they really couldn't, didn't actually want to, or were just saying yes for fear of displeasing someone. This behavior, while it can show a caring nature, requires a careful balance. Being able to say you cannot do something when you cannot is better for everyone concerned. At work and in life, it enables the other party to make the necessary arrangements, and it can also reduce stress and anxiety for you.

When you focus you are also more likely to be able to give the task at hand your best shot, rather than trying to do multiple things all at a mediocre level as you have so much to fit in.

The more confident people tended to be able to say no when they needed to, which in turn helped them to consistently deliver on their promises, as they were very clear and purposeful in what they committed to. Sometimes, especially in business, it is best not to leave ambiguity and if there is a high chance you cannot do something, it can be best to just opt out.

3: Many Faced Barriers that Limited Their Ability to Speak Up

While their ability to listen attentively was high, attributes that lead confident people to "speak up" were generally much lower for the group. We found that many of the women struggled with the ability to really relay what they thought in any situation - either because they thought they shouldn't or they couldn't articulate it as well as they could think it in their head.

While the women demonstrated more strength at understanding context, they had much more of a barrier when it came to acting on what they saw and what they observed.

Speaking up is critical to driving the beautiful ideas and conversations that can happen between diverse perspectives. In fact, in one study, researchers found that groups arrived at different decisions when women did participate. Being able to use context is a critical component of this trait and combining this strength with the ability to actively speak up is incredibly powerful, as it enables purposeful interactions based on the context of the moment.

Linked to this was the fact that many did not find it easy to say that they didn't know something if they didn't; there tended to be a worry about what people would think and how "not knowing" would reflect upon them.


4: Many Found It Difficult to Be Themselves Regardless of the Audience

When we studied confident people and what made them feel internally confident, as well as being perceived as confident externally, we found that one of the core attributes helping them in this was the ability to be their authentic selves to all audiences. These people understood the 3-5 core values that they really believed in implicitly and would live their lives by them, so much so that these then also filtered down through all of their decisions and behaviors.

With the women at the event we found that many shared common barriers preventing them from being their authentic selves. The same fears of acceptance, or of what others may think, tended to be common reasons, as were the nagging questions, "what if I am not enough?" and "what if I am not right?"

5: Many Found it Difficult to Take a Chance on Opportunities

One of the strengths commonly shared in the room was a good understanding of the level of expertise they possessed in their domain, however, many of the women found it hard to take chances on opportunities. This had some variance by job segment, but many felt that they couldn't take a chance easily, even if inside they really thought they should.

Many "what-ifs" along with the thought of potentially failing got in the way of focusing in on what the gain could be from the opportunity. More confident people, in contrast, tended to see the possible. This focus allows them not to be limited by their own thoughts, worries or barriers, and to seize opportunities that may come their way.

In Summary

While this is just a snippet of the data, there were several learnings that we took away.

Combinations of attributes are incredibly powerful. For example, together, being able to be contextually aware and having the ability to provide your opinions clearly can enable the best possible and purposeful responses in a myriad of situations to obtain the desired response. In many situations women already have a great toolkit of strengths that they can utilize to build up complementary attributes.

The different attributes of confidence have a knock on effect to each other. We found that many attributes enable other attributes, so once you start building, the momentum keeps on building too. It is kind of like losing weight - once you see some impact and a few tangible outcomes you will keep on going and build further momentum. In this same way, we also found that some attributes were much harder to build than others, kind of how the last 10 pounds can often be the hardest to lose.

Having awareness of one's holistic attributes as they pertain to authentic confidence enables a consciousness that encourages continuous learning and daily iterative improvement. Just knowing your strengths and being aware of what you might be doing, how a behavior may become a barrier, or how it may be perceived by others enables active improvement for you to work on the attributes which will enable the outcomes and behaviors that you do want to see. Several participants commented how they knew when they were doing something or should have done something differently; this, in itself, is a critical step on the road to development and creating tangible change.

One thing is for sure: we are all in this together. By supporting one another with our strengths while being aware of our barriers will help us to grow as individuals, as well as a collective.


More information and articles that may be of interest!