5 Powerful Ways Women’s Leadership Programs Can Close the Confidence Gap

women's leadership programs confidence gap

Addressing the Confidence Gap in Women's Leadership Programs

Women’s leadership programs can be a fantastic way for current and emerging female leaders to develop their skills, and enhance competencies include emotional intelligence, influence, communication, interpersonal skills, resilience, decision making, empathy, and authenticity. All these competencies play a role in effective leadership, as they are essential to be able to motivate, inspire, and get the best out of your people.  

However, there is one other thing that is often focused on in women’s leadership programs, and that is the “confidence gap”. If you’ve not heard of the confidence gap before, it is basically the gap or discrepancy that exists between how confident male and female leaders are in their capabilities. According to one research study by Columbia Business School, men tend to overestimate their abilities by around 30%, whereas women tend to underestimate theirs, which gives you an idea of the so-called confidence gap that exists between the two. 

Zenger Folkman have also carried out research into the confidence gap, and found that women leaders tend to lack confidence at the start of their careers, whereas male leaders tend to be more confident in their abilities. This discrepancy can be seen between men and women in their twenties and thirties, before becoming more equal in their forties and fifties, making it apparent that the confidence of women increases more with age and experience than it does with men. 

However, this confidence gap that commonly exists between male and female leaders could be getting in the way during the early stages of their career. Often, women leaders can find themselves struggling with “imposter syndrome” as a result of this gap, where they find themselves feeling incompetent, inadequately skilled, overachieving, self-doubting, and overly critical of themselves and their performance.   

Potentially, this may be leading to many emerging women leaders missing out on opportunities to take the lead within their company or organisation and advance within their chosen field. 

For this reason, bridging the confidence gap is often a focus in women’s leadership training sessions. The strategies used to overcome this can vary, though some of the common ones you will see used in women’s leadership training include: 

  • Developing the right mindset: Our mindset can play a big part in how we think and feel about ourselves, which in turn can have an impact on how confident we feel about our capabilities and competency as a leader. Women’s leadership programs often focus on developing a positive mindset about yourself, by reflecting on what you are good at or what you do well rather than what you might not do as well. Women’s leadership programs also often look at perfectionism and fear of failing, which are two other obstacles that often tend to hold women leaders back.
  • Practicing speaking confidently: Public speaking is something that can be a daunting, and even scary, prospect for a lot of people. However, getting confident speaking in front of a team can be another great strategy for building your confidence as a leader. As any effective leader knows, being able to communicate with and influence others is essential in any leadership role. Women’s leadership programs can help to ensure women leaders are empowered with the skill and knowledge to be able to project their voices, convey their message concisely and confidently, and speak with an appropriate pitch and tone – all of which go a long way in helping them to become more confident about their abilities as a leader overall.
  • Challenge outdated norms: Although significant progress has been made in how women are viewed within the corporate world, women leaders can often find themselves fighting against double standards and outdated notions in relation to women in leadership. For example, many women leaders find that people place inappropriate focus on the way they look and act, rather than their capability as a leader. Likewise, some find themselves struggling against old stereotypes that suggest “women aren’t cut out to be leaders”, or find themselves being told that they are being “bossy” even when a male leader is applauded for acting the same way. Overcoming these double standards, conflicts, and barriers to effective leadership is often another key focus within women’s executive leadership sessions.
  • Celebrating other women instead of competing with them: A lot of the time, female leaders can find themselves comparing themselves to and competing with other female leaders. However, women’s leadership training suggests that women can achieve much more as leaders by working together and supporting and empowering one another rather than competing with each other.
  • Opening themselves up to some level of risk: Women leaders often tend to be more cautious than male leaders, which can often make them more hesitant to take a risk for fear that it may not work out. However, women’s leadership training programs encourage women to be brave and courageous by taking risks, because the more we take these psychological risks in our work, the more comfortable we become with them, and the more confident we then become as leaders. 

As you can see, there are a number of ways in which women’s leadership training programs can be used to build the confidence of female leaders and bridge the confidence gap that exists within the corporate world. These strategies represent an important tool that can be used by women to help them prepare for a career as an effective and successful leader. 

Caroline Kennedy is an award-winning CEO with a track record of leading multinational companies with up to $250 million in revenue. She is also the founder of Empowering Women Leaders: Awaken the Powerful Leader Within – a transformative eight-week program designed to help women master the art of leadership. If you’re ready to unleash your hidden potential and become the leader that you were always meant to be, find out more at https://www.carolinekennedy.com.au/women-leadership-program/. 

Leave a Comment