Spabreaks.com Founder, Abi Wright, has built a successful business whilst juggling the roles of entrepreneur, partner, friend and mother of three. She is a mentor to other women in business and has a personal passion for creating a working world that her own daughter will one day thrive in. Here she writes frankly about how we can empower modern women in business to achieve their goals with confidence.
Today is International Women’s Day, and with it comes plenty to celebrate. There are so many women to admire in all areas of life. Most of us are privileged enough to be able to identify not just the famous women who inspire us, but also the ones we know in our own lives. From bra burning to Lean In, women have made sky shattering strides over the last hundred years, and we’re not finished yet.
Despite that however, research still shows that women, on balance, are less confident than men. Where men are likely to overestimate their abilities, women consistently underestimate theirs. This is particularly the case at work, where it’s also sometimes referred to as ‘imposter syndrome’.
As women, we often don’t feel that we deserve our jobs. That we are ‘imposters’ who may be found out at any moment. It’s no doubt a feeling familiar to many of you reading.
We see that discrepancy reflected in job applications all the time. Women will look at a job spec and won’t apply unless they meet 100% of the listed criteria. Men are more likely to apply with as little as 50% of the ‘wish list’ credentials.
This lack of confidence is a problem in general because it’s not a particularly happy space to live our lives in. It’s a particular issue at work because business constitutes such a large part of our lives. We also know that when people have confidence they can really let their talent shine. I, for one have seen women within Spabreaks.com flourish, achieve and grow into phenomenal, powerful individuals when they feel secure and confident in their environment and abilities. So it is to our great collective loss if women are not soaring above the proverbial clouds as much as they could because they are not confident enough.
Naturally, I have had my own experiences with confidence that have informed the way I try to act as an employer and mentor. I did not come from a background of remarkable privilege or remarkable hardship. I was not exceptional at school. In fact my teacher told me I wouldn’t amount to anything much at all. I don’t have any formal business training and I started Spabreaks.com four months after I had my first baby – not usually the most confident time in any woman’s life.
Today I run a business with more than 90 wonderful people around me. I have been doing something I love for more than 11 years. It’s also a great privilege to have seen other women grow and develop their own careers and even their own businesses from the experiences they have had at Spabreaks.com.
So how can we empower more women to achieve the things they want with confidence?
In my opinion, the most important thing an employer can do is create a nurturing environment that recognises people as individuals. The result of that is realising that to a greater or lesser extent women (and men) need to have flexibility within their working life in order to be happy, fulfilled and to juggle the demands of work and home life.
That doesn’t have to be because they have children. It may be managing ill health, responsibilities to elderly parents or a particular life circumstance that has occurred. We are all experienced enough to know that life throws some peculiar circumstances our way at times. As an employer, I can only say that my business has been enriched by a more flexible approach that allows people to manage life’s circumstances more easily alongside work.
Knowing that women are not generally predisposed to recognising their own skills, I also feel strongly that employers have a responsibility to recognise talent. It’s important to read between the lines of what people say and do, and create environments where confidence can flourish. Part of that is also about addressing the necessary elements to support health, wellbeing and a work/life balance.
I don’t mean in a ‘what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas kind of way. I mean in that if you have the right people in your team, and you trust in their abilities. Support them. Don’t micromanage them. Then it comes full circle and reaps dividends. The trust you put in them helps them to have confidence in their own abilities, and the result is phenomenally rewarding for everyone involved.
So what’s my point? How do I think we can encourage confidence in modern women at work? I don’t think it’s a secret or a magic potion or even anything particularly groundbreaking. I think it’s about recognising that people are individuals and treating them as such. I think it’s about creating a nurturing environment and trusting in the talent that you brought into your team, realising that to help someone to flourish is one of the most rewarding things you can do as an employer.
Happy International Women’s Day.
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