The Gen Z women flying the flag for workplace confidence
On the long road to gender equality in the workplace, the old notion that certain jobs are the sole domain of men is finally starting to seem like a distant, disappearing land in the rear mirror. But, the journey’s not quite over.
You probably know about the gender pay gap already, but there are other challenges facing women in the workplace. The ‘confidence gap’ refers to a cross-industry issue and describes the experience of women who fall behind, or fail to thrive, in their careers due to a lack of belief in their own abilities.
Often in our careers, how far we go depends on how far we can push ourselves forwards and upwards.
So if you’re in need of some self-affirming vocational inspiration then buckle up! You’re about to meet five women who are not here for the self-doubt.
Conformity is not the answer
Swarzy is a radio presenter who has felt first-hand the pressure to compete and blend in with male colleagues in a highly stressful media environment. Whilst Swarzy feels that competition may be fierce or friendly - and even useful in some instances - she finds the distribution of power between men and women in her industry unbalanced: 'I've felt the subtle pressure to bend. To be more like someone else. When co-hosting a radio show the lead was male and more experienced than me, and I felt a little out of my depth at first'.
It was when Swarzy began to relax and be herself that she found the producers and audience loved her non-conformity! She made jokes with the other presenter, standing her ground, and this added a new dimension to the topics they were discussing on air. In radio, it’s important for a presenter to sound like themselves. 'I’m proud to say there’s no one who sounds like me... I won’t change my sound'. Swarzy says, finding strength in what makes her different, not the same.
Want to stand in your power like Swarzy? She has some words of encouragement: 'The world constantly throws us into a state of competition with one another. We only have to scroll Instagram to see this! So there is much comfort and confidence to be found in reminding yourself of what you’re good at. Remember: there is no one you can be more fully than yourself.'
You belong here too
Jasmine is an apprentice civil engineer working on the high-speed rail project HS2. Before joining her team, she wasn’t sure what working in a male-dominated field would be like, but now she loves her job! Jasmine recognises that identifying female role models helped her feel she has a right to be at her workplace: ‘I see other women around me, and especially with those in senior roles and I think - she’s there, so I can get there as well’.
Jasmine keeps up her confidence levels at work by repeating positive affirmations to herself every morning. She recommends trying this in your job. Tell yourself you are smart, strong, capable and intelligent: ‘When you do this, the next time you're faced with an opportunity, you’ll hear your own voice in the back of your head telling you to go for it!’.
A tip from Jasmine on how to boss work: ‘Be yourself; don’t lose who you are. If you like hair and makeup like me then don’t be afraid to be the real you at work, because stereotypes are made for breaking’.
The lab is my happy place
Georgia is a science apprentice, helping to develop life-changing medicines. She describes her own insecurities when she first started at her company four years ago: ‘I wasn’t one to draw attention to myself at first, or speak out at a meeting’. Georgia steadily grew in confidence, feeling assured by the mixture of men and women at her company and its positive commitment to encouraging more women into similar STEM careers.
Georgia sat on a diversity and inclusion panel that looked at ways to make the workplace more inclusive for everyone. Georgia reflects on the challenge of getting more women working in STEM: ‘We can’t be complacent. I personally know people who have been put off science jobs because they are girls, so I'm a big advocate for making it clear that these roles are for everyone’. She is proud to be preparing the ground for the next generation of young scientists.
Want to build your self-belief like Georgia? She believes the way forward is to seize every opportunity and see where it takes you: ‘Even if you fail at something, you still learn from it, so it’s not a loss. I’ve only regretted the opportunities I never took’.
My gender has nothing to do with my job
Izzy is a firefighter who feels that the female support networks in the fire service today have enabled her to work side-by-side with her male colleagues, without restriction or prejudice. 'We are all equals here. We all go through the same gruelling selection process and do the same job,' she says, proud of her key role within her watch.
Izzy feels her colleagues are more like a second family to her. Together, with all their strengths and abilities at work, she and her team know they can tackle any problem or incident.
If you're feeling isolated at work, Izzy has some words of wisdom: 'See what support groups you can get involved with at your workplace, or start your own. The chances are, if you've experienced something and need advice, someone else will be in the same position. Meet other people; you are never alone'.
When women work together, we can achieve amazing things
Alison runs a social enterprise making reusable sanitary products and running educational outreach projects in the UK and Kenya. No stranger to stepping out of her comfort zone (she once spoke about menstrual health in front of HRH The Duke of York!) Alison confides: ‘It can be hard enough for a woman in business, but when your business is women the challenges are higher'.
She regularly explains to rooms of potential investors the need and significance of her product; answering consumer questions she’d never hear from women, because most investors are men.
Working with women over 6,000 miles away has challenged Alison's assumptions and given her new perspectives that have ultimately helped improve her product and expand her business. In Kenya, women sell the sanitary pads and educate girls in school about their periods, which has enabled those girls to participate more fully in their education. Alison is clear in her aim: ‘We are helping to break a cycle of negativity around periods for girls, so they stay in school longer with better health and confidence, and increase their life chances’.
Alison’s advice on tackling the confidence gap? ‘Remember, if you struggle with something difficult, it’s because it is difficult, not because you’re a woman’ she asserts.
Whatever your career journey, if you keep striving to achieve your goals and recognise your victories along the way, big or small, others will too.
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