When our co-founder Maggie first started giving University talks about her start-up ‘Shut Up and Dance’, she was initially flattered by praise from undergraduates. Statements such as, ‘I could never start my own business like you have,’ were both complementary to her success but also disconcerting. These were appraisals made by Business students. Students that, by the very nature of their degree, were better equipped than the majority of the population to pursue a start-up journey. Maggie began to question these compliments.
‘Why could you not start your own business?’
‘I haven’t got the personality type.’
‘I haven’t got a great idea.’
‘I wouldn’t know where to begin.’
‘I don’t have the confidence.’
The common theme in these responses was self-doubt encumbered by a lack of self-confidence.
Confidence is the feeling or belief that one can have faith in or rely on someone or something. That someone being yourself. Fundamental to perfecting any professional skills or reaching self-actualisation is self-confidence. Without confidence, the premise for ambition is flawed.
These students were perfectly capable of launching a start-up, they just didn’t believe they could. To remedy this, Girls in Charge was established. Girls in Charge aims to empower women and increase their interest in business by teaching essential entrepreneurial skills. However, our initiative understands that confidence must precede these to have tangible impact. Using games as a method of learning provides a fun and relaxed environment to run workshops. These workshops aim to enhance confidence by focussing on strategies like body language and personal branding. The initial trials were a success. Students dragged along friends that weren’t initially interested in business, but engaged because they found their confidence increased. Since then, Girls in Charge has grown prolifically. This is in part testament to the necessity of increasing confidence in women.
Statistics show only 1 in 3 start-ups are headed by women and these disparities are even larger in younger female entrepreneurs. Bright Network reported female undergraduates have lower salary expectations than their male counterparts despite holding an identical skill-set and academic merit. The Guardian reported female undergraduates are less likely to apply for competitive graduate schemes despite research showing women typically do better in recruitment processes. The UK Institute of Leadership and Management found half of female British managers interviewed reported self-doubt about their job performance and careers. It would be reductive to say confidence is the root cause of these findings but it is definitely a contributing factor.
Whilst confidence is largely individual and an internal manifestation of self-efficacy, there are ways to build on it. Everyone has the capability to become entrepreneurs. Be that in a start-up or in creating your own path to success. Realising your capability, creating opportunities and staying motivated will drive you there. Confidence is to be practiced and nurtured. So, empower yourself by finding your strengths and mastering them. Replace your inner critic with an inner coach and talk kindly to yourself. Celebrate the small victories to build your self-esteem; because for goodness sake no-one is more entitled to blow their own trumpet than you! Seek out opportunities, grab coffees with women that inspire you. Surround yourself with like-minded women. Cultivate your own sense of self-esteem.
There is no magic formula to self-confidence and it is daunting to step outside of your comfort zone and expose yourself to the possibility of failure. But paradoxically, this is in equal measure exciting. The idea that you are in control of your own destiny is cliché but should fill you with determination to succeed. You are in charge.