Three years ago, when I was first approached to take on the role of Chief Diversity Officer for PwC’s US Advisory practice, I was extremely honored—but I have to admit—I was also slightly taken aback. Yes, I believed passionately in fostering a culture of inclusion, attracting, growing and retaining our top talent including females and minorities, and helping educate my partners and colleagues about the importance of their efforts in this space. However, it wasn’t clear – Why me? What have I done to truly position myself to take on this role? I was told, “You’ve already been doing the role—you care, and you take action, and you inspire others to do the same.”
That was the first time that I truly understood what inspiring confidence in others meant and why, at all levels, it is critical that everyone play a role.
“Regardless of your title or level within an organization, we all contribute to a culture of confidence building”
To me, it is critical that we, as leaders, should be helping others discover and build confidence. Why? As people learn to believe in themselves, they are not only more productive, but they are more engaged, innovative, and more loyal to an organization.
Cultivating and engaging the next generation of talent can and should be one of the most important things that we do to advance the business and help our clients. This concept was also a focus at PwC’s Women in Technology (WIT) event at the 2016 Oracle HCM Users Group (OHUG) Global Conference. Our fourth year at the conference, we again collaborated with women from across the HR tech industry on a workshop solely about confidence—what it is, how it can impact one’s success, and the gender dynamics that may influence how confidence is demonstrated and perceived.
It’s not a “one and done” scenario
Confidence isn’t something most of us are born with, and it isn’t suddenly achieved through a single experience. Confidence levels vary by the situation and evolve by taking action, being open to new opportunities and challenges, and being willing to learn from each experience.
Don’t equate a lack of confidence to a lack of skills
It’s easy to assume that someone isn’t confident because they don’t have the skills, but that’s not always the case. Maybe the person is introverted or culturally not as assertive as you would expect. Maybe they don’t want to be perceived as a “know it all”, or they are simply overthinking the situation. There are number of reasons someone might be perceived as lacking in confidence; discovering the barriers can help people maximize their contributions, expand their influence and reach their fullest capacity.
Strive for “authentic confidence”
Both men and women can be over and under confident in different situations—both have their advantages and both have their drawbacks. Over confident people may not have all the skills needed to complete a task, impacting the quality of the final product, while under confident people may be reluctant or not given the opportunity to share ideas or solutions. The goal is to bring people to a place of “authentic confidence”—having good self-awareness of talents and skills, balanced with a willingness to take a calculated risk to accelerate their development.
The solution is not gender-specific
The event may have been organized by women in the technology field, but everyone contributed to the dialogue. Both men and women play a part in closing the confidence gap by fostering an inclusive environment.
When it comes to building confidence, we can all take action
Regardless of your title or level within an organization, we all contribute to a culture of confidence building. As individuals, we can work on building common understanding with others, expanding personal networks to gain new and diverse perspectives, acknowledging blindspots and being advocates for inclusion. As leaders, we can empower confidence across our teams through our body language, how we invite and allow input, and how we recognize and evaluate contributions.
In my role, I see missed opportunities by men and women to build their own confidence and that of others. We have to be able to be in the moment and recognize that we can take action. I often say, “Be confident. Take chances. Don’t go it alone.” And that’s exactly what I’ve been able to do by taking action to support PwC’s WIT initiative and conversations like the one at OHUG. WIT began as a grassroots community of interest and has grown to become a repeatable business model that now includes more than 1,400 members throughout PwC’s global network of firms.
In the past three years, we’ve matched more than 300 pairs of mentors—both men and women—and led conversations about confidence and women in technology at more than two dozen conferences. I like to think that what we’ve been able to accomplish not only builds the confidence of our people, but inspires men and women throughout the industry to act as a confidence multiplier.