Societal and workplace factors create barriers to women’s advancement, but what’s happening in our own heads plays a role too. When searching for a new job or putting themselves forward for promotion, on average men feel sufficiently confident to apply when they meet about half the stated requirements. Women want to check every box before stepping up.
Limiting beliefs about her ability to do the job and doubts about how far she can go in the system have created a persistent “Ambition Gap” between women and men. The result is that only 40% of women in the food industry say they want to be top executives compared with 57% of men. Even worse, only 30% of women in the food industry say that they are very likely or definitely going to become top executives.
“Communication is one of our most important tools for career advancement and making an impact in the world,” advises Star Bobatoon, presentation coach and motivational speaker. “People rise to the level of their ability to communicate. To rise to higher levels of influence and leadership, you must learn to speak with confidence and clarity.”
Bobatoon coaches leaders to develop more effective and powerful communication habits, but says the first step to projecting greater confidence is to rewrite limiting personal narratives. “Confidence grows when people develop a good story about who they are and what they deserve,” Bobatoon says. Search out damaging messages you may be feeding yourself (I’m not leadership material, not good at “X” or not as talented as my colleagues) and replace them with more accurate and empowering messages.
A daily diet of strong, supportive and consistent internal messaging will set you up for communication success. Then, it’s time to turn your attention to the mechanics of your communication style to both find your voice and enable others to hear it.
Speaking at the 2018 WFF Annual Leadership Development Conference, Bobatoon offered these tips:
- Make eye contact with those you are speaking to, even in (especially in) challenging or confrontational situations.
- Delete vocal fillers (um, uh, you know, like) from your speech patterns.
- Speak clearly and loudly enough to be heard easily.
- Pay attention to basic body language such as a firm handshake, standing tall and maintaining a strong stance without arms crossed over the body.
- Eliminate nervous giggles and unnecessary apologizing.
- Use active voice and state your thoughts clearly. Women have a tendency to want to gain consensus at all cost rather than sharing their own opinions candidly. Even something as simple as asking, “Is it cold in here?” instead of saying, “I’m cold,” sends a different message about your level of confidence and self-awareness.
“The most important thing of course, is to acknowledge your personal value and know that your voice deserves to be heard,” Bobatoon said.