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International Women's Day: Third Series, Part One

Sarah Ingwersen International Women's Day, Career Advice

Taylor Root is proud to be supporting International Women's Day 2019. International Women’s Day celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. Whilst we all know that gender parity within the workplace has improved over the past decades, we all also know that there is still a long way to go.
 
We would like to join the discussion and be part of International Women's Day 2019 #BalanceforBetter campaign on the 8th March by interviewing inspiring women we work with and, in particular, understanding the role confidence has played in their career.

 


We interviewed Amelia Guilfoyle, Head of Legal, ZPG, as part of International Women's Day 2019. We wanted to understand the role confidence has played in her career.
 
How do you define confidence, particularly in the workplace?
 
  • Knowing the important value you bring to the room/the business and not questioning it.
  • Feeling able to express your views and provide input in a way that is beneficial to the business.
  • Recognising when you need to push your viewpoint and having the courage of your convictions/ability and experience to know when to do so.
  • Accepting that you don't have all of the answers all of the time and being able to say this without feeling your position will be undermined.

How do you think the confidence gap affects women?

It is hard to quantify this without relying on anecdotal experience, however, I assume that a general lack of confidence has contributed, in part to the gender pay gap. 

Have you ever experienced imposter syndrome (where you doubt your achievements and have an internalised fear of being exposed as a “fraud”)? If so, how did you overcome it?
 
All the time but I honestly think that all people do regardless of gender and perhaps this is particularly prevalent in the legal profession. The key to this is probably in the second part of your question and that is how you handle the feeling. It's one of those that you just learn to handle as you get more experienced - mainly ignoring it or if you can doing something to address your perceived lack of achievements. Experience also helps. The longer you work the more you realise that feeling like an imposter is a side effect of developing your career and moving out of your comfort zone. 
 
What can be done to ensure a woman being assertive in the workplace doesn’t negatively impact on colleagues’ perceptions of her?
 
I think that there has been a shift in attitude (at least over my working life) away from perceiving an assertive woman as a negative trait - clearly more can be done to address this inherent bias that does still crop up. However, in my view there is also some work to be done on accepting that sometimes the loudest and most assertive voice in the room is not necessarily the most confident - there are occasions where recognising and having the confidence in the value you bring to the business you work for can mean you also have the courage of your convictions remain quiet.
 

We interviewed Emma Moloney, General Counsel at Endemol Shine as part of International Women's Day 2019. We wanted to understand the role confidence has played in her career.
 
How important have confidence and self-belief been in achieving your career goals? Please explain why.

I think it has been important in terms of saying yes to opportunities that were offered to me.  And having the courage to do so.  My career hasn’t had a linear path but those opportunities have always been challenging and stretching.  And fun quite a lot of the time.

How much has risk-taking contributed to your career development?

I’ve sometimes said yes to roles and projects that I didn’t know that I could do or I hadn’t done before.  This has made a big difference to my career path and also, my confidence.  I’ve learnt as much when I’ve “failed” as when I’ve “succeeded”.  

How important is mentoring, coaching and sponsorship in helping women to grow their confidence at 

Very. I’ve been lucky enough to have lots of mentors and I’m determined to pay that forward. I think it is important to encourage people to step up and also to amplify their skills and the things they are really good at (rather than focus on “improvement areas”).


How can confidence-building be built into career development strategies?

It is worth thinking ahead of time of what you might need for your next role and to prepare. That might involve coaching, a book list and some courses but probably the most important thing is self-awareness of what you need to develop.
 


We interviewed Rupa Patel General Counsel, Exterion Media as part of International Women's Day 2019. We wanted to understand the role confidence has played in her career.

How do you define confidence, particularly in the workplace?

Confidence is a feeling you have inside. How we show confidence externally, is ensuring that we feel confident internally. I do this by using knowledge. Empower yourself with knowledge, be an expert in your field and showcase your abilities to your team and the broader business. Confidence is also about being able to communicate your knowledge and skills through the business in a way that everyone understands, being able to adapt your communication style so that whoever your audience is, they understand the message you are trying to convey. Finally, for me confidence is believing in yourself and being assertive but with grace and humility. 
 
Have you ever experienced imposter syndrome (where you doubt your achievements and have an internalised fear of being exposed as a “fraud”)? If so, how did you overcome it?

Yes all the time – I think every woman does. But it’s about building your own strategies to counteract this. I do this by building up my knowledge, having faith in my own abilities and speaking up even when my mind is telling me to be the shrinking violet in the corner. I think it is also really important to have the mindset, that it is ok to fail. Don’t be scared to make mistakes. It’s okay to be wrong sometimes, learn from your mistakes, and move on. My daughters school introduced me to Carol Dweck and “the mindset theory” and the way to develop a growth mindset. I would highly recommend it!
 
How important is mentoring, coaching and sponsorship in helping women to grow their confidence at work?

Really important. I have been fortunate enough to have a number of mentors and having that connection with someone who you feel embodies the qualities you aspire to have or has been on a path that you would like to follow, is more likely to motivate you to take action in your own journey. In addition being able to talk through your worries and concerns with that person, really does put them into perspective. Mentoring is something that I also do with a number of women, I have had the fortune to cross paths with, and being a mentor is as valuable as being a mentee! 
 


We interviewed Sharmila Thangarajah, Director of Legal at Ancestry as part of International Women's Day 2019. We wanted to understand the role confidence has played in her career.

How do you define confidence, particularly in the workplace?

Being involved, outspoken and present. 

How do you think the confidence gap affects women?

Tremendously. I feel that men would speak up even if they were not entirely sure that what they have to say would positively contribute to the question. Women on the other hand would only speak up if they were 100% sure what they had to say is correct.

How important have confidence and self-belief been in achieving your career goals? Please explain why.

In a world of ‘If you don’t ask you don’t get’, being vocal and being confident about what I’m saying has made a difference.

Have you ever experienced imposter syndrome (where you doubt your achievements and have an internalised fear of being exposed as a “fraud”)? If so, how did you overcome it?

I have dealt with it in the past and continue to feel this time and again. I would love to know how to overcome this.
 


We interviewed Emma Sharpe, Legal Strategy at Takeda and Claire Debney, Legal Strategy at Shire as part of International Women's Day 2019. We wanted to understand the role confidence has played in her career.

How do you define confidence, particularly in the workplace? 

How do we define confidence? It is not as simple as believing in yourself, although this is critical. Confidence is about recognising the unique skills and talents that you have and how you use them - intentionally and contextually. It's self-awareness coupled with an awareness of others; being mindful that what drives and motivates us is different for each of us. It is about truly understanding who you are, who you want to be and where you can make a difference. It's the courage to stand up for yourself when your boundaries and values are being transgressed. It's choosing courage over comfort and accepting that setbacks and failure are part of your confidence journey; a journey with no end as we are, and should always be learning. With that learning comes confidence. It's a virtuous circle. 

How important is mentoring, coaching and sponsorship in helping women grow their confidence at work?

Coaching and mentoring have the ability to change our perceptions, to refocus the lens through which we view our personal and professional lives, and thus build deeper and more meaningful connections within our colleagues, teams and beyond. We do not see things as they are, we see things as we are. Mentoring, in particular, is an opportunity to see things from another perspective, to have someone reframe the situation you find yourself in. 

It’s probably fair to say that women are far more comfortable and open to discussing issues on their mind with trusted confidants, friends and colleagues. Some issues might even require a “panel” of such trusted advisers. This openness enables a stream of two way (or more) dialogue that removes the feeling of isolation and provides previously unseen insights. It allows a woman to be her true authentic self within a strong support system, empowered by a sense of community and a sense of belonging. This culture of sharing and being open has enabled women to flourish and thrive personally, yet for some reason, the same tried and tested formula does not get habitually applied in a professional environment. This needs to change. 

You can invest in your own professional development and work with a coach. Depending on your seniority you may be given a coach to work with. That said, it is often not that straightforward to find a mentor. Some of us are fortunate enough to have had mentors. It's often by luck, timing, good fortune in that serendipitous moment where you find someone who will act as your mentor or, more often than not, through sheer will and tenacity that you seek someone out to take on that role for you. Once you have had a mentor, you get a sense of what was missing and the impact that a mentor can have on your professional life. 

At MOSAIC, we believe that everyone who wants one should have access to a mentor. Imagine if you could offer support to someone throughout those challenges, by offering your ear, your trust and your counsel. Imagine if you had someone who was there for you, whom you could trust and turn to, talk things through and make sense of the challenges you face. This is why coaching and mentoring matter, and why we are committed to making a difference.
 


We interviewed Jacqui Marshall, Executive Vice President, Legal Affairs at Sony Pictures Entertainment as part of International Women's Day 2019. We wanted to understand the role confidence has played in her career.

How do you define confidence, particularly in the workplace? 

I would sum it up as resilience, self-belief and an ability to see that failure is acceptable. 
 
How do you think the confidence gap affects women?

I think what we call a ‘confidence’ gap is in part a ‘sense of entitlement’ gap. Sometimes this means that women do not feel entitled to push their point of view in meetings, particularly when ignored or interrupted, or we do not push for career progression or change in working practices to accommodate our lives, because we do not feel entitled to a successful career as of right.  

Do you think women’s workplace confidence has improved over the past few decades? Please explain why.

Change is happening slowly because the working world was designed by men for men. I think there is no doubt that confidence has improved as ideas about women in the workplace have evolved, but to make real steps towards parity of confidence levels we need to address the issues on a daily basis.  

How important have confidence and self-belief been in achieving your career goals? Please explain why.

A certain amount of natural extroversion, and an occasionally naive self-belief, have been factors in my career progressing in a manner that wasn’t always as planned as it might appear. My willingness to engage with people at all levels of organisations and to turn my hand to whatever turns up on my desk, both of which are borne in part, of those traits, have been hugely helpful, but I have also just been in the right place at the right time sometimes, so those traits are important yes, but certainly not the whole story.  

Have you ever experienced imposter syndrome (where you doubt your achievements and have an internalised fear of being exposed as a “fraud”)? If so, how did you overcome it?

I have imposter syndrome on a regular basis and have had it persistently during some periods of my career. I believe that in the legal profession (and in other careers) a significant dose of self-doubt is very useful if put to the right use. When I feel this way, I simply work. I find that immersing myself in doing the job and learning something new is an enormous help and confidence-builder. 

How much has risk-taking contributed to your career development?

Lawyers are not normally natural risk-takers and I am no exception. I have taken risks on new roles and in being assertive in circumstances where I have felt that the best course of action was not risk-free. I have also made mistakes at times, not because I took a reckless risk, but because one of the plates spun too slowly and fell, or because I took my eye off the ball for a second. I believe that one of the most important things women need to take to their hearts is that the response to failure has to be positive. We must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves down, learn from the mistake and turn it around, even if that takes some considerable time. If risk-taking loses its immense fear factor in women’s assessment of their work, then that will change the game.  

Can you give an example of a risk you’ve taken that has paid dividend?

Six years ago, I took a chance on stepping up to lead the corporate legal team for EMEA for Sony Pictures. I had two children of 1 and 3 at the time and did a lot of soul searching before I took this step. It has been the most challenging and fascinating role and has taken my career to somewhere I never expected. 

How important is mentoring, coaching and sponsorship in helping women to grow their confidence at work?

Mentoring and coaching are about sharing – we need to share our stories of success and failure and accept that our careers are equally worthy of the air time to do so. I think there is a very broad church within the words mentoring and coaching and we should embrace all of those activities, accepting that it is not a one-size-fits-all enterprise. I also think we should not make assumptions about who is appropriate to mentor and coach based on gender, seniority or any other factor. Sponsorship is, if anything, even more important. What we say about each other when we are not in the same room is vital to improving profiles, succession planning and adjusting perceptions generally. We can’t do enough on this front.   

How can confidence-building be built into career development strategies?

There are so many small adjustments that we can make to facilitate change that it is hard to know where to begin! I think that formal leadership training, both for male and female managers who may not be alive to the impact of certain approaches on female reports, mentoring, coaching, sponsorship, empowerment and creating a safe space for discussion and learning are all big-ticket activities we should engage with. However, there is also the day-to-day mindfulness of the issues – did that sole woman in the meeting get shouted down? Did the woman returning to work feel able to apply for that promotion? Did someone assume that the women did not want to go to the football with the clients and/or that they know nothing about it? 

What can be done to ensure a woman being assertive in the workplace doesn’t negatively impact on colleagues’ perceptions of her?

This is a really tough issue. There is a great truth in the assertion that women are expected to be relentlessly pleasant in the workplace, and the tolerance level for assertive behaviour does seem to be in a different place for women than for men. However, using greater intelligence, success or power as a weapon is inexcusable for all genders, so we must be assertive and stand our ground without succumbing to lazy and unpleasant tactics. I think coaching for and practising conflict conversations is key to this issue. I also think there is an easy mental exercise to do in any situation where we are about to label a woman as bossy or something worse – we should simply swap her for a man in our minds and see if a different emotional response results. For good and bad, I think it works.