The Confidence Question: Is Your Organization Giving Women the Confidence to Lead?

ThinkstockPhotos-484812031Over the next several weeks, I am exploring key issues that are either helping or hindering women who want to advance to senior leadership in the staffing industry. Confidence is where we are going to start because it is an essential trait every ambitious professional needs to have on the path to the executive suite. It is also a trait women in general appear to have substantially less of compared to men.

In their best-selling book The Confidence Code, authors Katty Kay and Claire Shipman share numerous examples of scientific evidence and research documenting the shortage of confidence among professional women when compared to men. They highlight data from Linda Babcock, professor of economics at Carnegie Mellon University, whose studies of business-school students reveal that “men initiate salary negotiations four times as often as women do.” They examined HP’s efforts to get more women into its upper management ranks and the company’s personnel file revelation, which showed that women applied for promotions only when they felt they meet 100% of the job requirements. Men, on the other hand, would apply for promotion even if they met only 60% of the requirements.

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Taking a simple glance at gender composition across the staffing industry and it’s easy to see that these dynamics are also at play in the staffing world. Women play an outsized role in the staffing, recruiting and HR fields. However, the higher the executive level, the sharper the decline in female representation. How can we as an industry get more of the women who are confidently working at the middle and lower ranks across the industry to push onwards and upwards into strategic operational and business leadership roles?

For global staffing provider, Randstad, one answer to the confidence question throughout the broader professional world has been to give women a community dedicated to advancing and nurturing their leadership and potential. Randstad launched the Women Powering Business blog, which was formed to serve as “a place for working women to gain insight, get inspired and share advice on how to navigate today’s workplace.”  In addition, the company also has a dedicated section on its Workforce360 thought leadership hub where they share relevant content and other activities designed to elevate the topic of women in leadership roles. The company’s commitment to women leadership and empowerment is reflected in its own ranks and across the staffing industry. For example, four of the 23 women on the 2014 Staffing Industry Analysts’ Staffing 100 list (nearly 20% of the women honored this year) are Randstad executives.

“The purpose of our Women Powering Business program is to provide opportunity for successful women to collaborate with one another and get them talking,” said Kristin Kelley, chief marketing officer for Randstad North America. “Our goal is to provide platforms and communities for these leaders to share experiences and insights and, in turn, equip them with strategies to reengage their own careers. Through these initiatives, we hope to inspire more women and empower them to take a seat at the table.”

As Kristin stated, it’s important to collaborate and share experiences that can help you build confidence as you grow within your career. For instance, in my own career, I’ve benefited from connecting with other strong leaders outside my organization and sharing my challenges and opportunities; for instance, I meet with a group of peers from diverse fields (but in similar roles) to discuss experiences and brainstorm strategies together. I also recommend asking for feedback consistently at work – and encouraging your superior to share constructive feedback so you can acknowledge and address weaknesses.

What are you doing to provide opportunities and create paths for your team to grow? Is your organization giving women the confidence to lead?

MORE: Do you have the right attitude?

Leah McKelvey

Leah McKelvey
Leah McKelvey is regional VP, enterprise EMEA at Bullhorn. She can be reached at leah (dot) mckelvey (at) bullhorn (dot) com.

Leah McKelvey

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