Gemma Nelson International Women's Day
How do you define confidence, particularly in the workplace?
I define it as the ability to be your true yourself and demonstrate your skills and opinions freely, with no apprehension to be judged.
How do you think the confidence gap affects women?
Here are the factors I believe hold back women confidence: First, women tend to define themselves within the limits of their education background, skills learned and experience, and don’t feel legitimate, during a meeting for example, to propose ideas related to other fields. Confidence is also not perceived equally between men or women. A confident woman would be more severely judged if she is making a mistake, as if we want to tell her that she has been punished to have overplayed it.
Do you think women’s workplace confidence has improved over the past few decades? Please explain why.
I believe so. Globally there is a trend towards women empowerment and diversity. We see more and more women taking CEO or board member roles in multinationals and it naturally inspires women at the workplace. I also think that the difficult times we are experiencing nowadays across the world give an opportunity for women to shine by leveraging their differentiating skills like empathy, crisis management, change management.
How important have confidence and self-belief been in achieving your career goals? Please explain why.
It has played a major role as this is what helps to make a leap. Success comes from the courage of taking disruptive actions to move the lines and change status quo. Each time I made such leap, it was directly linked to my self- belief in my capacity to go beyond what I have already done or already know.
Have you ever experienced imposter syndrome (where you doubt your achievements and have an internalised fear of being exposed as a “fraud”)? If so, how did you overcome it?
Certainly. I was exposed at an early age in my career, for example being part of a management committee right when I started working or even later after being promoted. I came over it with time and acknowledging what I have successfully achieved instead of focusing what I did wrong. I learnt to “move on” when I had failure. I should also say that the environment I was in has been highly rewarding with positive feedback, encouragement and recognition, which obviously helps.
How much has risk-taking contributed to your career development?
Risk-taking has been a booster of my career development on many fronts. Relocating to different countries, accepting role different from my function, quitting a comfortable role to test myself in a different environment. Each of this “risk-taking” move has triggered a fantastic learning and development experience.
Can you give an example of a risk you’ve taken that has paid dividend?
When I relocated to Asia to take the HR Director role, there was a high risk of failure due to my limited HR Management experience, the hostile environment and the cultural challenge. Looking back at this move, it was the best risk I ever took!
How important is mentoring, coaching and sponsorship in helping women to grow their confidence at work?
I do believe in coaching and mentoring to help anyone gaining confidence at work. However, I believe that, without the right leadership and organizational culture, all these efforts will be wasted.
How can confidence-building be built into career development strategies?
I believe that stretching yourself by accepting assignments out of your expertise, participating proactively in new projects, moving to a new role when reaching a comfort zone, this is how you build confidence. Sometimes we are waiting to master all skills before applying for a new role, whereas we should move first and then figure it out.
What can be done to ensure a woman being assertive in the workplace doesn’t negatively impact on colleagues’ perceptions of her?
I believe that acknowledging women success based on facts will avoid focusing on the assertiveness. Assertiveness is a skill that helps to achieve a result. At the end of the day, we should assess women or men, in the same way, based on their tangible contributions.