Interview with Ruth Daniels

Sarah Ingwersen International Women's Day, Career Advice

It’s important to ‘feel the fear’ sometimes when you move to something outside of your comfort zone or not a ‘traditional’ route.  Don’t always ‘go safe’. If nothing else, learn from it.

We interviewed Ruth Daniels, General Counsel at Global 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 / self-confidence is about having belief in yourself, your skills, your values as a person and also about understanding and knowing the value you bring to your team, colleagues and organisation.

How do you think the confidence gap affects women?
This very much depends on the individual. Some (not all) women may suffer from a lack of confidence about their skills or ability; this may stem from how they have been brought up, expectations placed on them or due to how they may have been treated in the workplace. If someone is not confident (or not perceived as being confident) this may affect their ability to be promoted, to be perceived as a leader, to step forward or to speak up. However, there is a danger in self-perpetuating some ‘descriptors’ so that men ‘expect’ women to be less confident…….

Do you think women’s workplace confidence has improved over the past few decades? Please explain why.
Yes; expectations on what women can achieve have changed and with that women have more self-belief around what they can achieve. There is also better support available and also increasingly more women in senior positions (still not enough!). 

How important have confidence and self-belief been in achieving your career goals? Please explain why.
I was brought up to believe that I could achieve anything and that there were no barriers to that. As a mixed race female I did not think that ‘difference’ would be prohibitive to what I could achieve, it probably drove me harder!

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?
No, not personally. I appreciate that this has been identified in research but again I feel that sometimes an expectation is being set that women will feel this and men think this is what happens. 

How much has risk-taking contributed to your career development?
Definitely; it’s important to ‘feel the fear’ sometimes when you move to something outside of your comfort zone or not a ‘traditional’ route.  Don’t always ‘go safe’. If nothing else, learn from it.

How important is mentoring, coaching and sponsorship in helping women to grow their confidence at work?
All are important but it can come in many forms; don’t wait for it to come to you, actively seek it out and it doesn’t have to be in your workplace. 

How can confidence-building be built into career development strategies?
Self-awareness and emotional intelligence are key as you progress; if a lack of confidence is identified, or maybe in certain situations / when dealing with certain people or things then look to coaching, coping mechanisms and also creating awareness with others around how certain behaviours, actions or people make you feel.

What can be done to ensure a woman being assertive in the workplace doesn’t negatively impact on colleagues’ perceptions of her?
Confidence and assertiveness can transgress to arrogance or aggression (or perceived); try not to over-compensate and be authentic in how you behave and handle yourself. Being different can become your effective USP!