When I decided to start my business—nearly five years ago now—my initial thought was that I may have had a great idea, but I couldn’t actually run a business. After running my idea past a group of older, accomplished businessmen and having them validate that my idea was indeed a good one, I finally had the boost of confidence I needed to see myself as an entrepreneur.
In the years since, I have encountered so many smart, capable, hard-working women with great ideas who also had trouble seeing themselves as being able to run a business. And that’s when I realized that the problem isn’t actually an ability problem. It’s a confidence problem.
Women Are More Than Capable Leaders
When it comes to women in business and confidence, the numbers can be staggering. In an article published by the New York Times, entitled, “Overcoming the Confidence Gap,” the author laments the fact that “women make up more than half of the work force, but they still represent less than 5 percent of the chief executives of the largest companies, and about 15 percent of senior executives.”
While the article also cites a study performed by the Zenger Folkman consulting group, which compared 16,000 male and female business leaders—two-thirds were men and one-third were women. It might not surprise you to find that the women rated better than men in 12 out of 16 competency categories, including: “takes initiative,” “drives for results,” “stretches for results,” “practices self-development,” “develops others,” “motivates and inspires others,” “builds relationships” and “collaboration and teamwork.”
The areas in which the female leaders did not outperform the men? “Technical expertise,” “innovation,” and “a strategic perspective about the outside world and other groups.”
A KPMG study examined women’s attitudes towards leadership. They interviewed 3,000 professional and college-age women and found that “only 40 percent were consistently able to envision themselves as leaders. While men often overvalue their strengths, women too frequently undervalue theirs. Call it a continuing confidence gap.”
The Imposter Complex
Many women, once they do achieve high levels of success, still seem to suffer from a crisis of confidence, however. An article entitled, “The Confidence Gap,” from the May 2014 issue of The Atlantic, was written by two highly-accomplished women who had experienced their own crisis of confidence on their way to the top.
Katty Kay, a British journalist and former co-anchor of BBC World News America, “had spent her life convinced that she just wasn’t intelligent enough to compete for the most-prestigious jobs in journalism. She still entertained the notion that her public profile in America was thanks to her English accent, which surely, she suspected, gave her a few extra IQ points every time she opened her mouth.”
Similarly, her friend and co-author, Claire Shipman, a journalist for outlets such as CNN, NBC News and ABC’s Good Morning America, admits that for years she “routinely deferred to the alpha-male journalists around her, assuming that because they were so much louder, so much more certain, they just knew more. She subconsciously believed that they had a right to talk more on television. But were they really more competent? Or just more self-assured?”
The two friends decided that if they were feeling this way, a host of other successful women might have had similar feelings and experiences, and they were right. They interviewed a variety of successful women—from WNBA All-Star, Monique Currie, to tech entrepreneur Clara Shih—and found that they also fell victim to the imposter complex, which negatively impacted their confidence levels.
Build Your Confidence, Build Your Business
Whether we’ve been socially conditioned to think we are not as capable as men when it comes to launching and growing businesses, or whether we’ve just hit some obstacles along the way that have lessened our confidence levels, research suggests that women entrepreneurs are actually more ambitious and successful than their male counterparts.
In a Fortune magazine article, appropriately entitled, “Women Entrepreneurs ‘Are More Ambitious and Successful’ Than Men,” they examine the 2016 BNP Paribas Global Entrepreneur Report and find that “almost 90% of women entrepreneurs expected their companies’ gross profits to increase or remain stable in the next year. More specifically, 61% expected profits to rise, compared to an average of 58% among all entrepreneurs.”
In fact, “companies helmed by women entrepreneurs had 13% higher revenues than those run by men, and finished 9% above the average for all entrepreneurs surveyed.” So, why did you think you couldn’t start and grow a successful business?
If you still need an extra boost of confidence, shoot me an email. It is one of my life’s greatest pleasure helping other women succeed—professionally, personally and financially. I would be honored to help you get your idea off the ground!