Erin Davis is the Director of global talent engagement at Stantec, Edmonton, and a founding member of worksforwomen.org
Progressive workplaces continue to champion efforts around diversity and inclusion. The ultimate goal? To create more inclusive cultures in which everyone can bring their whole selves to work.
McKinsey & Co.'s study of 1,000 companies in 12 countries found that organizations in the top 25 percentile when it comes to gender diversity among executive leadership teams were more likely to outperform on profitability (21 per cent) and value creation (27 per cent). McKinsey further affirms that companies pay a penalty for a lack of diversity.
Given this, work in the area of gender equity often denotes the changes needed at an organizational level to increase female representation in leadership, reduce the wage gap and ultimately build workplaces that will work for women. While we do not dispute that the research shows that workplaces that work for women work for everyone, perhaps our focus needs to switch from structural and systemic barriers to what we can change within ourselves. Do we spend enough time focused on our own mindset for success, rather than changes at the organizational level?
Confidence can be a huge contributing factor to anyone’s success. When we are challenged to think about our own feelings of self-assurance, do we have a strong appreciation of our own abilities or qualities? Imposter Syndrome is one such trait that can show up in many a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts her or his own accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a “fraud.”
Career coach Ashley Stahl says that, with effort and mental reprogramming, you can learn to overcome your self-doubt and celebrate your accomplishments. It’s no easy task, but imagine how liberated you’ll feel once your feelings of anxiety and fears of “getting found out” subside. We can have open conversations about our challenges. With increasing awareness of how common these experiences are, perhaps we can feel freer to be frank about our feelings and build confidence in some simple truths: I have talent, I am capable, and I belong.
Once you acknowledge it, look to change your mindset. Reframe your thoughts and realize that what you’re feeling isn’t founded on anything real. Instead of thinking something like “I don’t know anything,” try reframing it to “I have great knowledge and expertise and, while I’m still learning, my appetite to learn and grow will be a factor in my success.” See how it feels when you don’t put the pressure on yourself to know it all.
Remember, you aren’t alone. Find someone you can talk to, whether it be a coach, friend, or colleague. There’s a whole community of people out there who are also struggling to feel good enough. Offer to be “that person” your colleague can turn to for support. Connect with each other when you notice a misrepresentation of experience or accomplishment.
Use your influence over self to guide your way, and allow your learnings to inspire others. Strive to surround yourself with advisers who fill those gaps. Consider starting your own advisory board for your career – a group of people you can consult with regularly to get advice and feedback. Just like executives and managers need an array of advisers, mentors and role models to provide critical information and support at defining moments, we can all realize the benefits from building our own advisory boards. We all need sounding boards. A place to test our ideas, our strategies, and push us to think beyond our perceived limitations. Yet how many of us have taken the time to formally set up an advisory board, or a group that will help us with reframing our daily mindset?
We are entering an exciting period of history where the world expects balance. While we can play the long game for systemic change, let’s remember the one thing that we can truly change and influence: ourselves. This call to action is for everyone – what is holding you back from change?