THE BLOG

Women Have the Power to Lead - What's Stopping Them - Confidence or Men?

25/02/2014 11:36 GMT | Updated 26/04/2014 10:59 BST

When the FTSE 100 has only four female chief executives there's a question that has to be asked: Why are more women not pushing themselves forward for more senior roles?

My work as a corporate coach suggests the answer is primarily a lack of confidence.

These days it's much less about men seeking to keep them out - though this can of course still happen.

Many women who want to become leaders and take on senior roles in politics or business clearly need a boost of confidence to break through invisible barriers and shatter the glass ceiling.

Efforts to improve their confidence would be far more valuable than the implementation of female quotas which are not the answer.

Quotas can undermine women's confidence because it sends a signal that they are not getting senior roles on merit.

The Lloyds Bank announcement that they have a quota to put 40% more women into senior roles by 2020 could prove counterproductive.

It would be much better to find ways of giving women a boost of confidence to get senior positions on merit - because of their experience and qualifications, not just their gender.

I had a coaching client who worked in a financial company with mostly men. She was one of just three women. One was the secretary and the other a personal assistant to the chief executive.

There were more than forty men on the floor she was working on and she didn't feel part of the team. At first they used to make jokes about her shoes and how many pairs she needed to come to work in. She wasn't one of them because she didn't always go for a drink after work and play snooker or cards!

Following our coaching sessions she realised that her position in the company was equal to the associate directors she was working with.

When it came to the prospect of being promoted to director she knew she could do it and did not allow a snooker game to get in the way!

She prepared for the interview and had the confidence and belief she could do it.

My client is now a partner in the firm and the men invite her for a drink. They haven't yet persuaded her to play snooker!

Women can surprise themselves - and skeptical men - when they have self-belief.

In a recent episode of ITV's popular drama, 'Mr Selfridge', the women have to take over in the warehouse whilst the men go off to war. Some of the male staff were concerned the women wouldn't be able to do the job. With combined effort and a slight tweak to their long dresses and removal of their tight corsets, the women were ready to take on their new responsibilities.

Home Editor of BBC News Mark Easton wrote a great article about 'Will women be the saviours of the High Street?' This was based on an increase in women running high street shops.

The more confidence and self-belief women have the more they will achieve higher goals.

The good news is that the outlook for women has improved since Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's reign as Iron Lady. Back then women were expected to toughen up and be more like a man in order to make it.

Our former Prime Minister employed a coach to change her voice tone in order to sound more authoritative.

Today women can get to higher positions and still show their feminine side.

What a lot of women don't realise is that this can be one of their strengths and major assets.

By having a more feminine balance in leadership roles could be of more benefit to us all.

Listening to leader of the rail unions Bob Crow swearing in an aggressive manor underlines this point.

Both British politics and business could do with more empathetic and understanding leaders with the feminine touch.

In order to do this we need more confident women in senior roles who can revel in their femininity and be comfortable with their image.

A great example of this is British politician Theresa May who wears the shoes she wants despite obsessive media attention.

By showing her confidence and female side our Home Secretary doesn't let the media obsession with her footwear hold her back. She clearly displays this confidence by wearing her leopard print kitten heals. Any woman that wears fabulous shoes gets my vote!

So what can women do to make their way to the top in greater numbers?

By having the confidence to project themselves in the way they want to be perceived and having the self-belief and vision to achieve their goals they can make it happen.

Give your workforce the confidence to forge ahead and check out this special masterclass: 'Boosting Women's Confidence for Success in the Workplace'

Nicci Roscoe

www.nicciroscoe.com