How Women Can Be Bold

Today, March 8th, is International Women’s Day. The theme is Be Bold for Change. This day is a call for each one of us -- men and women -- to help forge a better working world for women. This means that we do our part to help women and girls achieve their ambitions, challenge conscious and unconscious bias, call for gender-balanced leadership, value women and men's contributions equally, and create inclusive flexible cultures.

As I sit here thinking about this day, it made me reflect on my own challenges as a women entrepreneur and business leader and what I may be able to teach other women to help them achieve gender parity. One thing that I think some women struggle with is confidence. I know many women who have had a business idea they are passionate about, but not the confidence to start it. Or the desire for a promotion or pay raise but not the confidence to go after it. If you feel this way too, you’re not alone.

Let’s be honest, sometimes it’s hard to have the confidence you need in business when you see a lack of women like you in senior business roles. In fact, according to the Center for American Progress, women at S&P 500 companies make up only 25 percent of executive and senior-level positions, hold only 19 percent of board seats, and are only 4.6 percent of CEOs. Over time, this dearth of business women role models can be discouraging and subtly erode your confidence. But the good news is this--there are ways to boost and re-build your confidence when you need to.

Here are a few things that I’ve learned about confidence in my journey as a women business leader and entrepreneur:

Ignore that story in your head

There are times when all of us have thoughts telling us that we’re not good enough or experienced enough to do what we want to do. I am no exception. But through the years, I learned that these thoughts weren’t necessarily based in reality. Through the practice of yoga, I learned to observe these thoughts from a distance and not get hooked by them. I was then able to start breaking the pattern of believing them. While these stories always stick with me, I’m now able to see them for what they are. They no longer define me or hold me back from doing what I want to do. To learn more about some of these techniques, I recommend that you sign up for a beginning yoga or meditation class. You can also find free resources and guided meditation classes online.

Confidence is a muscle that you can build and rebuild

When you start to lift weights, you don’t go from 2 lbs to 50 lbs in one visit to the gym. You work your way up so that you lift heavier and heavier weights over time. This is just like how you can build confidence. You start by taking a small step toward something that makes you uncomfortable. For example, if you’re afraid to give a sales pitch for your new service or product, start by practicing with friends and family members and get their feedback to improve. Then try it on an acquaintance, gather feedback and finetune. Next, try the pitch on your target customer, get feedback from what they say and their body language, and revise accordingly. With repetition and feedback you’ll build that confidence muscle over time.

And what’s more, your muscles have what they call “muscle memory.” This means that if you once had muscle mass in a certain area but lost it, you will be able to rebuild that muscle faster because it remembers its previous larger size. So when you need a confidence boost in an area where you once had confidence, take some intentional steps like I described above to rebuild that muscle. You’ll get your mojo back quicker than you thought possible.

These are just a few simple things you can do when you need to build or boost your confidence. I’m not saying that a lack of confidence is the root cause of the greater gender parity issue or that all women struggle with confidence issues, but I think that it’s helpful to have some confidence boosting tools in your toolkit for when you need them. And let’s be honest, we all need them at some point in our lives.