Frazer Jones 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 Tracey Marsh, Human Resources Director APAC, Weir Minerals.
How do you define confidence, particularly in the workplace?
For me, confidence is about self-belief and being comfortable in my ‘own skin’. Over the years I’ve realised that it’s OK to not know all of the answers, in fact it makes me human. The important thing is not trying to pretend to know everything, but in knowing when to seek support and then tapping into the appropriate knowledge, skills and experiences of others when appropriate.
Having built confidence I now feel comfortable to ask questions that perhaps years ago I may have thought were ‘dumb’…but now, I don’t hesitate, and often see others in the room making notes or nodding in understanding as they too have valued from the question being voiced. In finding my confidence, I found my voice. I have learnt to speak up and to be heard.
How do you think the confidence gap affects women?
I think women often want to be ‘very’ right and thorough before believing that they have ‘confidence’ to speak, to do, to act…I think we tend to apply very strict standards on ourselves and overthink what should often be a ‘give it a go’ moment. I am not saying that delivery of a quality product or output is not critical, it is, as is meeting financials and ensuring value to customer. All of this is a given, but in achieving these outputs, women often dwell a little too much on some of the smaller elements before taking the plunge. I think we need to jump in more quickly and with more gusto as most often we bounce up and do really great things.
Do you think women’s workplace confidence has improved over the past few decades? Please explain why.
Yes, I do. I believe that women have started being more visible and vocal in many arenas and are role modelling a more confident approach to the greater population highlighting what is indeed possible. Young girls in schools are being exposed to more opportunities academically such as STEM programs and this is becoming the ‘norm’ for them. As they move into the workforce, we will have a greater influx of self-confident women who will let nothing stand in their way. Active programs providing encouragement and support to women helping them to grow in their careers are also providing much needed support to ensure that workplace confidence for women is stronger and sustained.
How important have confidence and self-belief been in achieving your career goals? Please explain why.
Confidence and self-belief have been critical for me in terms of my career growth. I was promoted to the role of Director for the Asia Region at a fairly young age in a male dominated workplace (and industry). I found that I would sit in meetings and couldn’t speak up for fear of sounding ‘silly’ or saying the ‘wrong thing’. I was incredibly frustrated with myself and requested that I work with a coach to help me find my voice. I worked with a coach for six months during which time I explored may facets of myself and became more aware of my abilities, insights and contributions. Needless to say, I found ‘my voice’, and haven’t looked back. It was an important phase in my career – I have since moved to different roles all over the world and the ability to believe in myself and to speak up has enabled me to be impactful and recognised.
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, I realised I had this when I was interviewing for an executive role. I had told the interviewer that I didn’t think I met all of the job requirements as I hadn’t accomplished all of the position requisites (or at least not to my satisfaction). The interviewer laughed and told me that only the female candidates ever admitted that they didn’t think they were good enough, and apparently, we often would go into detail explaining just why we didn’t meet up to the expected standard. From that moment on I started being more aware of the words I used when describing my achievements or when assessing my abilities. I stopped doubting my ability and actively looked to recognise what had been achieved.
How much has risk-taking contributed to your career development?
Significantly – I have lived in five countries over the last nineteen years and have moved my family to these locations as my career has progressed. Every move involved risk in terms of a new location, new teams, new role and sometimes a new organisation. My ability to believe in myself and to apply previous learnings in new situations so that I could continue to build upon previous successes was essential.
Can you give an example of a risk you’ve taken that has paid dividend?
In one of my roles I was required to take on board a number of specialist teams in areas that I was not overly familiar. It would have been pointless trying to pretend that I was strong in these niche areas, and so I didn’t. I met with the teams and talked about their perspectives, needs, concerns, challenges and opportunities. I quickly became their advocate and ensured that together we identified a clear future and moved towards that with me removing obstacles and barriers and the teams providing the subject matter expertise that was required.
How important is mentoring, coaching and sponsorship in helping women to grow their confidence at work?
As mentioned earlier, a coach was instrumental to me in my early stages of career development in terms of helping me find my voice and strengthen my self-confidence. I believe that mentors and coaches are of great value and am an active mentor currently for a program that focuses on Women in Mining. Mentoring is beneficial both for the mentor and mentee – it is a win-win situation where the conversations and support provide great insights to both parties.
How can confidence-building be built into career development strategies?
It is important to ensure we have mentoring and coaching available in the workplace and that we actively discuss the topic of confidence as we craft development plans and projects for our employees. It is important that women understand the value that self-confidence will bring and work actively on addressing and acquiring these skills. Role modelling, networking, information sessions and opportunities for taking on projects that are ‘stretch’ projects are all necessary to ensure that confidence building is a deliberate focus.
What can be done to ensure a woman being assertive in the workplace doesn’t negatively impact on colleagues’ perceptions of her?
It is all about balance and a good dash of EQ. Assertiveness is essential if deliverables are going to be met, but assertiveness must be partnered with effective communication skills. Such communication skills include active listening, awareness of body language and an effective questioning approach – all of which will enable both parties to properly understand each other and feel comfortable in asking for and providing clarification. The ability to provide and receive feedback is an essential attribute for success in the workplace. As such, when assertiveness becomes ‘too much’, the individual must be willing to hear the feedback and act upon it.