International Women’s Day: Q&A with Joanne Fischlin

March 12, 2019

“I am in my role today thanks to taking this risk and I am having the best time of my professional life.”

How do you define confidence, particularly in the workplace? 

The ability to speak up including when you doubt.

How do you think the confidence gap affects women? 

We gain much less visibility in our organisations and are perceived as “doers” rather than “market makers”.

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

Yes. More and more women share their views confidently and take a more active role in shaping company’s objectives, but one needs to recognise that this is also due to awareness campaigns companies have been driving around Diversity as well as the active role some male managers have taken at making sure women and introverts also get a chance to express their views.

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

Having a successful career is a subtle balance of bragging and being humble and both require a lot of confidence (the latter even more so), so I’d say it is at the cornerstone of having if not a successful career a fulfilling one!

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.

Absolutely and I don’t know how many times a week it still happens! I overcome it by looking around me, listening to other people’s input carefully (rather than thinking about what to say next) and I’ve realised that in many instances other people’s input isn’t more clever than what I had in mind. That’s made me realise more often than not that I actually belong and can actually contribute meaningfully.

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

I often took roles being terrorised I wouldn’t be able to be successful in them only to realise I ended up not being so bad at it and most importantly spending the most of my time learning so risk taking has been a huge part of my career and personal development. 

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

I refused a comfy role in-house to set up my own secondment business. I knew nothing about marketing myself, bringing in clients, showcasing my work. I am in my role today thanks to taking this risk and I am having the best time of my professional life.

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

A responsibility that every woman in the workplace should embrace. I wish in my young days I’d have had a woman to coach and guide me. Today I enjoy helping others making career leaps thanks to the experience I can share.

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

Companies need to make Diversity a core priority and with that comes helping those with less confidence shine. 

Of course, as individuals we need to learn how to better ourselves by learning proactively and independently but organisations need to foster a favourable environment for people to speak up and take risk.
What can be done to ensure a woman being assertive in the workplace doesn’t negatively impact on colleagues’ perceptions of her? 

I go back to the subtle balance of being upfront and humble. Unfortunately, women need to deal with the inappropriate perception that they are being aggressive when they want something but that’s not going away anytime soon in my opinion so until that changes, we must learn to “whip and stroke” smartly. Sometimes you get more from others by showing your weaknesses and being humble than being the elephant in the china shop and sometimes you must be that elephant and break a few things – you just need to feel when is the right time to where which hat.