Why Women Must Own It: Communicating Confidence in the Boardroom and Beyond

Photo Credit: stockimages via FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

by Karima Mariama-Arthur

In business, communicating confidence is currency—it’s quantifiable and can translate huge dividends for those willing to brandish a little bit of old-fashioned moxie. Now, while this notion has traditionally worked for men, it hasn’t always been such a sure bet for women. In a recent Bloomberg interview, BBC World News America anchor Katty Kay and “Good Morning America” contributor Claire Shipman explore this notion and expose the confidence gap between men and women. Katty and Claire are also co-authors of The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance—What Women Should Know. Read more about their research and findings here.

So, why is confidence such a big deal? And, why isn’t competence the “be-all and end-all” for women in business? Well, competence is really only part of the equation. Women, just like men, do better in business by experiencing confidence in 3D. By leaving valuable trump cards on the table—like confidence, for example—we set ourselves up for less-than-stellar results.

I’ve worked with numerous male and female business professionals during the course of my career and my experience confirms that being competent means nothing if you don’t believe it. Sure—we’ve all heard that you can “fake it until you make it”, but that’s simply a prophylactic measure. Confidence must be real. It must be visceral. It must be owned.

Confidence is compelling. When you harness its power, you win. How’s that? You gain immediate, first-class, strategic advantages in business, which allow you to advance your “pawns” to premium positioning: you elevate your thinking, your performance, and your results. You can’t get those kinds of outcomes by “faking it.” With the power to seal a deal, or break it, confidence is a golden calling card that women simply cannot afford to be without. So, if the evidence demonstrates that men have mastered this criterion in business, then quite frankly, why shouldn’t we?

Ladies, here are 4 key reasons why women must own it and communicate confidence in the boardroom and beyond:

Confidence is currency. Confidence is the necessary quid pro quo (“consideration”) in every business transaction. You need it and it will take you FAR. It raises the stakes and opens doors. It helps to position you as the expert, facilitate the exchange of value, and ultimately “transact” business. You would never think of making a new purchase without first giving value (payment), right? Well, doing business of any kind without confidence is a deal-breaker and will leave you strategically bankrupt. Don’t do it.

Confidence says “Take me SERIOUSLY.” Ladies, you want to play in the big league? Get ready to play full out. If you want to be taken seriously, bring some old-fashioned moxie to the game and introduce it at the outset. Insecurity, self-doubt, and hesitation can all be seen from a mile away. And, if you’re not convinced of your own competence, then why should anyone else? That’s right. Don’t expect more from others than you expect of yourself. If you want to be taken seriously, demonstrate that you have the confidence to be in the game and win it.

Confidence influences brand perception. Your brand is your billboard and it’s always at stake. And, if you’re in business, you are always in the business of managing your professional brand. Everything you say or do has the potential to impact it. With that in mind, brand yourself as someone who executes “boss moves” with confidence and you’ll hardly have to worry about earning a reputation for being an easy mark.

Confidence impacts performance. What the mind harbors, the body manifests. If you don’t believe that you can get the job done with excellence, then your performance will reflect it. Why risk showing up like an amateur? Why risk having your qualifications second-guessed? The odds are not in your favor. Increase your confidence and boost your performance. It’s just that simple.

Here’s the deal: Confidence is an essential life skill. And, it’s critical for business. Therefore, we must own it. Make confidence the gateway, and not a roadblock to your success. Play bigger, stand taller, and… own it!

To your success!

Photo Credit: stockimages via FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Karima Mariama-Arthur, Esq.Karima Mariama-Arthur is a corporate attorney and the Founder and CEO of WordSmithRapport, an international consulting firm specializing in professional development. For helpful tips on increasing confidence and solving performance challenges, connect with her on Facebook,  and for a quick dose of #Leadership inspiration, follow her on Twitter, @wsrapport.

Share :


2 Replies to “Why Women Must Own It: Communicating Confidence in the Boardroom and Beyond”

  1. Karima Mariama-Arthur, Esq.


    Thank you for your thoughtful response. What a great comment and follow-up question!

    I‘ll make a few comments before answering your question.

    First, it’s true—quite often many people who are incompetent “feign” confidence. It’s simply a defense mechanism. By simulating confidence, they hope to give others the impression that they are competent. But, in reality, their behavior is transparent, distracting, and will eventually betray them. Competence can only be established through actual performance, not an impression. Therefore, “feigning” confidence will neither build trust in others, nor camouflage incompetence. If it did, you could not have presented such a great example from your experience arsenal, right?

    Secondly, those who are competent (and willing to admit what they don’t know) are in the best position to showcase confidence. Why? You don’t need to know everything to be confident. You must, however, take ownership of your professional wheelhouse by “stacking the odds in your favor” (see below), which empowers you to express confidence freely and unapologetically.

    Finally, here’s my advice about maintaining confidence in a low feedback environment: When you don’t have the benefit of contrast or substantial feedback, you have to learn to trust that you are your own “best barometer.” Have you ever received feedback that was “whitewashed?” How about a performance review-turned-personal attack, that was disguised as “constructive criticism?” If so, you know that you cannot always rely on others to provide you with optimum feedback, good or bad.

    With those precepts in mind, consider the following strategies:

    1. Stack the odds in your favor. Make sure that you are competent in your own right by doing whatever is necessary to “own” your intellectual space. Get the academic credentials, certifications, and real-life experiences that will help assure that your professional contributions relevant, valuable, and premium.

    2. Remove doubt from the equation. Practice self-reliance as a matter of course. Don’t be so quick to avoid blame and secure praise from others, no matter where they are in the food chain. Having a visceral connection to your self-worth and ultimately your performance, will help you to look inward for the tools you need to honestly and accurately self-assess without allowing the distraction of doubt to creep in.

    3. Plan for growth. Periodically, you will need to conduct an independent assessment of your performance, an overhaul—if you will. Identify your blind spots and craft a plan of action for achieving greater results. Growth is a multi-faceted process; the more you grow—the more competent and confident you will ultimately become.

    Hope this helps, Andrew! Thank you for the opportunity to further engage on this topic.


  2. Andrew McDermott


    You’re right, you definitely need to own confidence in order for it to work for you.

    The problem that I’ve run into is this:

    1. Quite often, those that seem confident are incompetent. You’ve seen it, the entitled young manager that believes they’re the all-star (even though they’re terrible at their job).

    2. The people that are competent, are usually aware of how much they don’t know – which isn’t the greatest confidence booster.

    Being confident is easy when I have contrast, e.g. I know I can help this person because they don’t know X. It’s a lot harder (at least for me) to have confidence in a low feedback environment.

    Any thoughts on how you’d go about maintaining that confidence in a low feedback environment?

    Great topic.

Comments are closed.