November 2, 2023

How to Close the Confidence Gap: Tips for Professional Women

Have you ever hesitated to voice your opinion at a meeting, even though you knew you were right? You're not alone.

From boardroom meetings to casual work chats, women in business often find themselves holding back opinions and sidestepping opportunities. 

Why? It's the confidence gap. And it's affecting your professional life more than you might realize.

Research, including this study from The Atlantic™, has shown a consistent difference between women's and men’s self-perception in the workplace. While many women second guess their abilities, men frequently exhibit “honest overconfidence.” And, as a result, women ask for less money during salary negotiations and hold back from competing
for opportunities. Even when fully capable.

Building confidence in yourself and stepping out of your comfort zone takes practice. Whether you’re facing imposter syndrome or need a little self-assurance, read on for 7 power-packed tips to boost your confidence as a woman in the workplace.

What does it mean to be confident in the workplace?

The workplace is full of confidence. Some genuine, some fake. For women in the workplace, it can be tough to tell the difference.

Let’s start with a few misconceptions:

Confidence is knowing exactly how to do something. A common misconception many harbor is the belief that true confidence comes from knowing everything about a given subject or role. 

This holds many women back. Real confidence is not about having all the answers, but about being willing to seek them out. It's about trusting in your ability to learn, adapt, and handle challenges that come your way.

Professionals who wait to feel completely knowledgeable before taking action often find themselves stagnating, missing out on opportunities to grow and advance.

Confidence comes from past success. Another prevailing myth is that confidence comes from past achievements. While prior successes can bolster one's self-esteem, relying exclusively on them can be limiting. 

Think about innovators or pioneers in any field–they didn't have prior successes to lean on when charting new territories or trying something novel. 

True confidence is a forward-looking belief, an assurance in one's ability to navigate future challenges and capitalize on opportunities. It's the resilience to bounce back, the tenacity to keep pushing, and the faith in one's potential that truly fuels confidence.

Consider this common scenario. 

You’re looking at a job description, and realize you only have experience with 60% of the listed requirements. Many women would let the unknown 40% hold them back. They would walk away from the role, even if it was a dream opportunity.

You might feel nervous, but if you believe you’re capable of taking on that other 40%, submit an application with confidence. You don’t need 100% mastery to put yourself
forward. Say you’re up for a challenge, and other professionals will believe in you as much as you believe in yourself.

It’s important to remember that confidence isn’t a natural quality some people are born with and others will never have. Approach confidence as a skill you can develop and
refine over time, and you’ll be on your way to a brighter career and future.


7 ways to build lasting confidence in the workplace

An internal sense of confidence can take years to develop. But, along the journey, there are quick ways to give yourself a temporary confidence boost in moments of need. Try on
these 7 tips to look and feel confident as a woman in business. 

1. Craft your personal elevator pitch
Know your worth. Develop a crisp introduction about your strengths and aspirations. Have it ready the next time you’re introducing yourself to others. Take a look at this study in Psychology Today™ for some helpful elevator pitch tips.

2. Replace negative self-talk 
Mind your thoughts. Your internal dialogue can help or hinder you. Identify disparaging messages and replace them with more productive, positive thoughts. For instance, when your performance isn’t perfect, avoid blaming or shaming yourself. Instead, shift your mindset by acknowledging that the task is objectively challenging and that you’re growing as you work through it.

3. Give yourself positive affirmations
Reach for daily reminders of your capabilities. A helpful way to drown out negative self-talk and nerves is to recite positive affirmations and encouraging mantras. This pep

talk can help you power through a project or overcome fear when trying something new at work. Start with: “I’m capable of learning and growing in the face of adversity.”

4. Challenge self-limiting beliefs
Replace “I can’t” with “I can learn.” If you feel the urge to downplay your skills or abilities, take a step back. Work to dismantle those self-limiting narratives. Replace them with optimism and trust in yourself.

5. Dress for success
Have a high-stakes meeting? Reach for your favorite outfit. Walk into the room looking and feeling bold, not sloppy and stressed. This can give you an extra boost of self-assurance and help you project confidence.

6. Focus on improving your body language
Your body should echo your confidence. So, stand tall, maintain eye contact, and turn your body toward others. Start with a firm handshake and make direct eye contact with the people you’re speaking with. And if you’re prone to fidgeting, avoid pen-clicking or crossing your arms. Instead, bring along something like a sleek padfolio to hold calmly.

7. Observe confident women
Networking isn't just for job opportunities. Learn from others' confidence and take on their best qualities. If you watch a charismatic speaker or see someone make a great introduction, ask yourself: “What did they do there?” Consider why they appear confident and try borrowing their tactics.

Looking for more confidence-boosting material?

Visit the Comerica Women in Business page for articles and insights. And keep an eye out for the 2024 Comerica Women’s Business Symposium where you can see what confidence looks like in action and network with other confident, positive women.

This information is provided for general awareness purposes only and is not intended to be relied upon as legal or compliance advice.

This article is provided for informational purposes only. While the information contained within has been compiled from source[s] which are believed to be reliable and accurate, Comerica Bank does not guarantee its accuracy. Consequently, it should not be considered a comprehensive statement on any matter nor be relied upon as such.

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