Boosting my confidence and supporting women in the workplace

11 March 2023

As part of International Women’s Day 2023, we’re celebrating the Inspiring Women from our MBA programmes by digging into their experiences around the theme of equity.

Executive MBA (London) participant, Rupali Sharma Patel, explores how joining a committee for an internal women’s networking group offered her an opportunity to use her existing skills to champion and support women within the workplace.

International Women’s Day was first observed in the early 1900s at a time of ‘Great unrest and when the critical debate was occurring amongst women. Women's oppression and inequality were spurring women to become more vocal and active in campaigning for change.’ Over 100 years since that movement started, giant strides have been taken to improve the rights of women, however, representation of women in positions of influence within business, politics and education remains low. The statistics are even worse for women of colour and those from intersectional backgrounds.

Although there is a myriad of ingrained cultural and structural barriers within society and the workplace which impact women and require a concerted effort from government and businesses to change existing practices, there are steps individuals can take to overcome some of the personal barriers which impede growth and development.

Confidence described as ‘to trust oneself’ or ‘having the certainty to rely on one’s own ability’ is an aspect which is often cited as a reason for lack of progression, as this informs skills such as decisiveness, collaboration and influence. Confidence is also directly linked with the ability to communicate - great orators often are perceived to have high levels of confidence whilst the inability to use language to summarise or articulate thoughts might lower confidence.

Self-awareness to recognise environments and situations which are impacting the level of confidence is a useful first step, followed by engaging in activities that help to reinforce the feeling of self and certainty in one’s ability to take on challenging tasks.

My level of confidence had been intrinsically linked to familiarity, safety and culture, and the environment which had these ingredients increased my level of confidence and the ability to stretch or take risks. Being in situations where I didn’t feel secure or being part of a culture, which didn’t align with my values often led me to feel diminished, marginalised, and low in confidence. This was especially amplified when I overlaid the responsibility I felt towards my young daughters.

This changed a few years ago when I joined a committee for an internal women’s networking group which offered me an opportunity to use my existing skills to champion and support women within the workplace. Clarity of purpose, combined with a safe and inclusive environment helped me to dial up my level of confidence and communication. And the more my personal values aligned with the purpose, the more empowered I felt which increased my confidence. This circular relationship between self-awareness, personal values and confidence has been critical in reframing my view of personal development and has become a guiding principle for exploring avenues which help me to learn and grow. Armed with this knowledge I was able to expand my network, share my knowledge and broaden my horizons.

The experience also provided me with valuable insight into inculcating workplace friendships which can help course correct and elevate by complementing my understanding of key issues and challenges. The friendships I have formed through my work have been fundamental in boosting my confidence, finding my purpose, and becoming more reliant on my ability.

Although the idea of networking still fills me with dread, reframing it as an opportunity to have meaningful conversations is helping me to grow and develop into a more confident version of myself. I am also realising that confidence is contagious and I am hopeful by being more authentic and self-aware, women can overcome some of the personal barriers and have more fulfilling and rewarding careers.

Discover more Inspiring Women on our MBA programmes

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