It’s no secret that instilling confidence at a young age translates into confidence in the working world. As I manage a team largely comprised of females, I know first-hand the importance of developing and nurturing self-esteem in young women. On a personal level, I grew up in a family of four girls and now have four nieces, which is why I’ve become increasingly concerned about recent studies that show confidence and self-esteem levels decreasing as young girls hit adolescence.
A study conducted by the American Association of University Women titled Shortchanging Girls: Shortchanging America revealed that girls progress through grade school with similar goals and ambitions to boys, but that ambition and confidence take a nose dive once a girl reaches adolescence. Highly disturbing results of a United Kingdom (UK) study show that girls’ lack of self-esteem could result in lower numbers of female business leaders. The study, commissioned by the Dove Self Esteem Project, shows a potential 14% decline in the number of female managers, a 16% decline in the number of female Olympians, and a 17% decline in the number of female doctors and lawyers based primarily on a lack of confidence in young women.
According to Claire Shipman and Katty Kay, authors of The Confidence Code, “The good news is that with work, confidence can be acquired. Which means that the confidence gap, in turn, can be closed.”
So, what can we do to encourage confidence in young women and female professionals alike? Here are four ways in which we can help young women develop the confidence needed for a successful career.
Pursue a Passion – I believe young women should be empowered to pursue activities in which they excel. Succeeding in a sport or artistic endeavor, for example, will help boost self-esteem. If you know someone who was once a great tennis player, encourage her to pick up the racquet again.
Solve Problems Independently – Empowering young girls – and young professionals – to do things on their own is hugely important in building confidence. It can be as simple as having your teenager order the take-out for dinner or having a younger colleague lead a large work project. Try to avoid being a helicopter parent – or boss. Rather than fixing the issue on your own, let her do it. And, avoid the tendency to criticize her efforts or tell her how it could be done differently.
Try Something New – Encourage females to be involved in a variety of activities, even some that may be out of their comfort zone. After all, she may discover an activity in which she excels. (Who knows? She could even become the next Jamie Anderson of snowboarding!) Stepping out of your comfort zone can also yield business success. Daniela Bolzmann, Co-Founder of WeDeliver (an organization specializing in same-day delivery), took a leap of faith when she began pitching investors on her new business venture during a Pitch Night hosted by Ms. Tech. “That event led to me finding an investor for my company and to Ms.Tech starting a pitch camp to help others. It’s opportunities like this that helped prepare myself with the confidence I needed to present to a room full of Venture Capitalists at Google.”
Utilize Critical Thinking – Instead of simply going along with the crowd, women and girls should be encouraged to evaluate a situation and make choices that align with their core values. For example, young girls may find themselves in peer pressure situations involving drugs or alcohol. In the working world, a female employee might be in a meeting where she strongly disagrees with a decision being made. Displaying courage to not go along with the crowd and speak up will help females become more self-assured. And, if you observe this in the workplace, be sure to tell your colleague how much you respect her for speaking out.
I believe one of the best gifts you can give your children, nieces/nephews, co-workers, friends, etc. is the gift of confidence. Remember, it’s never too late to try some of these tactics to boost your own self-confidence or to boost the confidence of others.
And, if you have any personal stories, articles or tips to share, please join in on the conversation!