Imogen Butler-Cole provides insight on questions surrounding women in the workplace.
Reading time: 3m 27s.
Why do you think imposter syndrome affects women in business?
Imposter syndrome – internalised fear and doubt of our achievements and authority – is a familiar feeling to many people. It appears particularly prevalent among women in business, who face specific challenges in making their voices heard in the workplace, negotiating pay rises and progressing to leadership positions – all of which can feed this imposter syndrome even more.
It is also linked to greater workplace performance anxiety (the business equivalent of stage fright) which manifests at key moments for women’s careers. A recent report, Beating Workplace Performance Anxiety, found that women are 39% more likely than men to experience workplace anxiety when interviewing for a job and when negotiating a pay rise.
This suggests that women most often display signs of the physical impact of imposter syndrome in situations where they need to confidently put themselves forward and talk about their achievements.
We often assume that confidence is something that some people naturally have while others do not. This isn’t true.
This anxiety can have many physical manifestations: racing heart, shortness of breath, sweaty palms and clouded thinking. By visualising their best self and using these techniques to instil greater self-confidence, women can convey authority and assurance in these challenging situations and tackle imposter syndrome head-on.
What are the techniques women can employ to boost leadership potential and have confidence to progress in their work?
Women can employ a number of techniques to have their desired impact and boost leadership potential. It’s important for women to be heard, build resilience and achieve their goals effectively to progress in the workplace. Here are some insights using acting techniques as a basis.
- Make a connection. Maintaining strong eye contact and looking at people directly is a simple yet effective way to engage with colleagues and clients no matter their level of seniority – it helps to build a connection of trust. This allows you to make a lasting impression and shows that you are engaged in what others are saying.
- Speak up. Don’t be afraid to state your intentions with confidence. Slow down, make your point clearly, and avoid raising your voice at the end of a sentence as this can signal you are seeking approval.
- Have confidence. Belief in the message you’re trying to deliver will give it more chance of resonating with your audience. Employers can identify confidence through body language and speech so it’s important to value and own your achievements and show them true leadership potential in any workplace situation.
- Keep breathing. Simple breathing techniques such as breathing slowly out and in can help to maintain composure in uneasy situations, and will convey that you have the confidence to deal with difficult situations in the workplace.
- Own the space. Sit or stand up straight depending on the situation you’re in and avoid looking down. It’s important to take up space with strong body language when communicating, to confidently hold your space and make your intentions clear.
By applying these techniques, businesswomen can build on their confidence and boost leadership potential. They can help women hone their communication skills and have their desired impact in the workplace.
Which women do you look to as examples of strength, leadership and progression?
We all have strong women that we admire – and for different reasons. Whether it’s a politician, colleague, manager or friend, the key is not to impersonate someone else’s communication style but to ask yourself why you like their performance.
Do they land their message with impact? Do they ask the questions that you want to ask? Having this person in mind can help if you need an outward projection of strength.
We often assume that confidence is something that some people naturally have while others do not. This isn’t true. By learning the behaviours that others perceive as confidence, you can begin to feel and think more confidently too – to make your own progress.
Get into the habit of seeing yourself at your best – how do you look and sound in a situation when you know your performing excellently? Decide to bring that version of yourself into your next meeting, presentation or interview.
About the interviewee
Imogen Butler-Cole is a tutor for RADA Business.