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Women have come a long way in the workplace over the last few decades, reaching higher positions and taking on more responsibility. However, this doesn’t always come easily to many. While we hear much about the wage gap between men and women and the skill gap between men and women in certain industries, there is one gap that is less well documented - the confidence gap.


Research shows that while men overestimate their performance and their abilities, women underestimate both in the workplace. In 2011, the Institute of Leadership and Management surveyed British managers about how confident they feel in their professions. Half of the female respondents reported self-doubt about their ability and performance compared with less than a third of male respondents.This challenge in female confidence has come to be known as the 'imposter syndrome', where women don't feel they deserve their job and could be found out at any moment. But, studies show that companies hiring women in large numbers outperform their competitors in profitability. Women are more than competent, so why don’t we feel that way?


A number of things may contribute to a lack of confidence in many women at work - personality, experience, self-esteem. But, there is one contributor that all women have in common, and that is the way women are ‘supposed’ to act in society. Unlike men, we are not often seen as born leaders. We are supposed to be quiet and submissive. We are too emotional and natural caregivers and, at some point, we are supposed to go away and have children.It’s when we break subtle concepts like this that women end up being treated differently in the workplace which sometimes affects our confidence. Sometimes people don’t listen to us, take our ideas seriously, or give us credit for our work, which is all too common.


Being a woman in the workplace does not mean fitting into the mould of the perfect working woman. Like everyone else, we should embrace our individuality, learn what our strengths are, and use them to our advantage to make an impact. It can be difficult to overcome the imposter syndrome, but doing so will open opportunities for you to get that promotion you want, to have your ideas listened to, and to get the credit you deserve for your work.

Being an assertive woman in the workplace doesn’t mean having to raise your voice and become aggressive for people to listen. It means owning your value and using confidence to show people you are someone worth hearing, for their own good and the good of your organisation.Not all women in the workplace lack confidence. More and more of us are becoming leaders in our professions despite the challenges often faced by women at work. But, for those of us who might need a confidence boost, there are opportunities you can take to help you.


Civil Service College is offering a new course for women who want to recognise their talents and skills and use them to become effective leaders. Our Assertiveness For Women course is a safe place to explore the challenges of being a working woman, how to get your voices heard, and how to operate in a professional, confident, and assertive way.


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