Month: October 2015

The Confidence Gap. What is it and can it be reduced?

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Sevda GurpinarExperienced marketing and advertising professional

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According to many studies, men and women begin their careers equally confident about reaching the top, but over time women’s confidence declines. Even though we have made huge progress in gender equality in the past decade, at the very top women are still nearly absent.

But why is this so when the business case for diversity is clear to see? A recent McKinsey study found companies with 10% higher gender and racial diversity in their management teams have a 6% higher profit. I personally believe that the more diverse the workforce, the more likely you are to succeed as a company. The company with the most flexibility in its thinking and behaviour will have the greatest influence on its customers.

Women, when our competence in the workplace has never been more obvious, why is it that a lack of confidence is holding us back? For all of you reading this and nodding your heads, it is important to remember that confidence can be built – we CAN make a positive shift towards reducing the confidence gap. Cindy Gallop (Founder & CEO of IfWeRanTheWorld) believes that we all need to “microact”. Real change happens from the bottom up, not from top down, so every single person needs to take microactions everyday to affect change.

Here are a few of my tips on how to influence change at an individual level:

1) Act assertively:

Fake it until you make it! If you pretend you are confident, with practice you will become confident. People that need to be 99% sure to speak out won’t speak out at all. Yet others will have more confidence in you when you put a stake in the ground, even if you do make mistakes along the way. So just go for it! My coach, Nikki Watkins, says that “everyone has extraordinary in them, you just have to get out of the way of yourself”. This could not be more true of many of the highly competent but not as equally confident women I come across in the workplace.

2) Embrace the spotlight:

Just because it doesn’t feel natural don’t let the extrovert in the team take all the glory. Do not let your contributions be sidelined because of stage fright. I once heard someone say that “women who don’t self-promote are letting us all down”. Generally men do not have a problem doing this. If the thought of this makes you nervous I would encourage you to watch the TED talk by social psychologist Amy Cuddy (https://www.ted.com/talks/amy_cuddy_your_body_language_shapes_who_you_are?language=en) where she suggests a little trick before a meeting to help increase confidence. She suggests doing the “Wonder Woman” or the “Runner crossing the finish line” pose in front of a mirror. Both release testosterone and reduce cortisol which will make you feel calmer and more confident.

3) Call it out:

If you are naturally confident and can see that there are members of the team that are not – then help these colleagues speak up. Encourage them and acknowledge their opinions. Don’t talk over people or repeat what they have said. And most importantly if you witness these sort of behaviours be bold and call them out.

If every individual, introvert or extrovert, male or female, becomes more mindful of their own actions and adopts new habits, collectively we can diminish the confidence gap.


International Day of the Girl Child

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2015 Theme: The Power of the Adolescent Girl: Vision for 2030


On December 19, 2011, the United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution 66/170 to declare 11 October as the International Day of the Girl Child, to recognize girls’ rights and the unique challenges girls face around the world.

This year, as the international community assesses progress under the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) since their implementation in 2000 and sets goals to be achieved by 2030, girls born at the turn of the millennium have reached adolescence, and the generation of girls born this year will be adolescents in 2030. As we reflect on the achievements of the past 15 years and plan sustainable development goals for the next 15, it is an opportune time to consider the importance of social, economic, and political investment in the power of adolescent girls as fundamental to breaking the intergenerational transmission of poverty, violence, exclusion and discrimination and to achieving equitable and sustainable development outcomes.

Adolescent girls have the right to a safe, educated, and healthy life, not only during these critical formative years, but also as they mature into women. If effectively supported during the adolescent years, girls have the potential to change the world – both as the empowered girls of today and as tomorrow’s workers, mothers, entrepreneurs, mentors, household heads, and political leaders. An investment in realising the power of adolescent girls upholds their rights today and promises a more equitable and prosperous future, one in which half of humanity is an equal partner in solving the problems of climate change, political conflict, economic growth, disease prevention, and global sustainability.

Over the last 15 years, the global community has made significant progress in improving the lives of girls during early childhood. In 2015, girls in the first decade of life are more likely to enrol in primary school, receive key vaccinations, and are less likely to suffer from health and nutrition problems than were previous generations. However, there has been insufficient investment in addressing the challenges girls face when they enter the second decade of their lives. This includes obtaining quality secondary and higher education, avoiding child marriage, receiving information and services related to puberty and reproductive health, and protecting themselves against unwanted pregnancy, sexually transmitted disease and gender-based violence.

As the global community launches the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for implementation over the next 15 years, it is a good time to recognise the achievements made in supporting young girls, while at the same time aspiring to support the current and upcoming generation of adolescent girls, to truly fulfil their potential as key actors in achieving a sustainable and equitable world. In recognition of the importance of investing in adolescent girls’ empowerment and rights, both today and in the future, the theme of International Day of the Girl Child for 2015 is: The Power of the Adolescent Girl: Vision for 2030.

UN agencies, Member States, civil society organizations, and private sector stakeholders are called on to commit to putting adolescent girls at the centre of sustainable development efforts by making the following critical investments in their present and future:

Invest in high quality education, skills, training, access to technology and other learning initiatives that prepare girls for life, jobs, and leadership.
Invest in health and nutrition suitable to the adolescent years, including puberty education, menstrual hygiene management, and sexual and reproductive health education and services.
Promote zero tolerance against physical, mental, and sexual violence.
Enact and consistently implement social, economic, and policy mechanisms to combat early marriage and female genital mutilation.
Invest in the creation and maintenance of social and public spaces for civic and political engagement, creativity and talent enhancement.
Promote gender-responsive legislation and policies across all areas especially for adolescent girls who are disabled, vulnerable and marginalized, and victims of trafficking and sexual exploitation.
The commitment by the global community to realising the potential of adolescent girls will directly translate into the girls as powerful and positive change agents for their own empowerment, for advancing gender equality and for the sustainable advancement of their nations.

Source: http://www.un.org/en/events/girlchild/

Behind Every Woman…

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Kalpana TatavartiPartner at Interweave Consulting Pvt Ltd

The key challenge to retaining and developing the female talent pipeline for organizations or engaging women in the global economic activity, has been of women dropping off or slow pedaling their careers.

Many times it is attributed to women not being aspirational or ambitious enough.

I believe that is not at all the case.

Women do aspire, but the pull against their aspirations is their gender identity, ‘The Good Woman’ template, which is defined by society and internalized by women themselves.

In the groups that I run, often there are obvious reflections of this template:

“I love my work and have been promoted twice in the last four years. Recently I have had a baby who is now a year old. Though my current role is exciting and demanding I feel guilty I’m not available for my child”

“I am not sure I want to be earning more than my husband or be in a higher position than him”

“My Manager asked me why are you considering that tough role… when my husband earns so much, just take it easy!”

“One of my colleagues was saying how he dislikes ‘all those ambitious’ women’… what does that mean? Is it a crime?”

“I see successful women leaders as very brusque and too direct, and that doesn’t seem very womanly to me.”

“My mother in law thinks I am very selfish to focus on my career so much.”

“If I take the next role, I will have to compromise my family and their needs.”

“My husband says I can work so long as it doesn’t affect our family life or children”

“My mother doesn’t understand why I travel so much or work so hard. Stay at home and relax.”

Gender is the deepest part of our identity which defines how a woman ‘should be’; it is a template that society defines on what it is to be a ‘good woman’.

  • A Good Woman is not Ambitious
  • A Good Woman will Adjust and Compromise
  • A Good woman is supportive of others (not herself)
  • A Good woman puts her family’s needs before hers
  • A Good woman has to be a perfect mother

Etc etc etc…

Women internalize this template, which impacts their everyday behaviors & decisions: to stay in the workplaces or leave; to engage with their careers or lean back; to claim their spaces (both in their professional or personal lives) or play second/third/fourth fiddle. More often than not, this acts as an Internal Glass Ceiling that holds women back from releasing their potential and achieving their aspirations.

If women have to stay, sustain & grow in their careers or engage in the global economic activity, they have to challenge & redefine this template for themselves first.

Needless to say, women who have achieved beyond their homes, (and many have!) have all reinvented this template.

And they are surrounded by people who have reinvented the template too… husbands, mothers, friends, mothers- in-law(!!), managers, organizations.

“I have developed a mechanism through which I just tune out the messages from the environment that don’t support my career aspirations.”

“I have shared my career aspirations with my husband and he agrees that balancing work and family commitments is both our responsibility, not just mine.”

“I work because it is important to me, and I make it a point to convey to my manager that I am ambitious. But certain stages in my life need her/his support, just like anyone else irrespective of gender. But that in no way reduces my commitment to my work.”

“My mother is supportive of my career choices, and helps out in many ways so that I don’t get worked up. She has worked before.”

For, Behind Every Woman….

….is the woman herself, who changes what it means to be a ‘good woman.’

For, Behind Every Woman….

….are all the significant people and systems in her life who have changed what it means to be a ‘good woman’

How many ways have you changed the template for yourself?

How many ways have you changed the template for the women in your life?

Join the ‘Behind Every Woman’ Campaign! Click here to share your stories of changing the template.

Kalpana Tatavarti is a diversity & inclusion professional. To read more of her writing visit her blog, woMan work life, at http://www.womanworklife.in/

Four traits you’ll find in successful women

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Keeran Gunnooby , Global Employer Brand Director

The truth is unavoidable. Everywhere in the business world, women are hugely unrepresented at the top. Only 4% of CEO positions with Fortune 500 companies, and fewer than one in five corporate board seats, are currently held by women. And while things are slowly loosening up – notably with the steady increase of female MBA students – there’s still have a long way to go.

But against this background there are some stellar exceptions – women who have set their own direction and succeeded largely on their own terms. Inevitably, their success raises the question of what sets them apart from their peers. I’ve narrowed it down to four key elements.

Self confidence

Though findings by Goldman Sachs and Columbia University have found companies employing women in large numbers tend to outperform their competitors, many of these competent women still feel undeserving of a promotion, underestimate their performance, or fear asking for a raise. Call it assertiveness, courage or keeping cool under pressure – fostering real self-confidence can push you further and faster in the workplace. Developing assertiveness, managing anxiety and supporting your colleagues can win you respect, self- assurance – and even that promotion.


It’s become something of a truism to suggest that empathy in the workplace is the natural inclination of women. There is a way to make that work in your favour, though, with a softer management style that focuses as much on the person as the performance. Management with empathy doesn’t mean that you’re a pushover or favour a culture of under-achievement. On the contrary, a little personal understanding earns a huge payback in terms of loyalty, since employees are far more likely to go that extra mile for a popular and inspiring leader.


We’ve all come across the superwoman effect – high-achievers who juggle home and family commitments, as well as a demanding career schedule. Learning to successfully balance several areas of your life is key for those who want to “have it all.” There are also ways you can use your workplace to your advantage: flexible working arrangements, childcare vouchers and job-sharing can all help you feel like Superwoman – minus the mask and cape.

Managing stress

Stress can burn out the most ironclad constitution and crumble the steeliest resolve. Anyone can feel stressed if they don’t have a support network. The impact is multiplied if you feel isolated, so things like mentoring, balancing your schedule and taking regular breaks can make a huge difference. And never be afraid to ask for more workplace support – because no one makes it alone.

Empowering women to achieve success, and thereby creating an equal environment for employees, is one of the most effective tools for accelerating global development. That’s why in 2014, Unilever strengthened their Enhancing Livelihoods ambitions of the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan, by creating a new pillar on ‘Opportunities for Women’, with a focus on their economic empowerment based on rights, skills and opportunities. Unilever’s ambition is to empower 5 million women by 2020, and you could be one of them.

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