My grandma always used to say, Steliana, you can become anything you want, even a Prime-Minister if you like it. At the age of seven I thought Prime-Ministers were boring men with their grey and dark-blue suits. The only woman politician I saw on TV, Elena Ceausescu, the wife of the Romanian president, was a rather scary lady. I wanted to become like Surya Bonaly, an extraordinary French girl who was the first woman of color to win the world title for artistic skating. She wore happy feminine colors but she was courageous and strong. For me she was and still is a symbol of self-confidence.
I chose to write about self-confidence this week because I realized that what I see as common sense, it is not per se common sense by others. You only notice your self-confidence when you lost it. There were three events that triggered me to reflect on self-confidence over the last period.
The first one, was a remark from one of my interns, who interviewed women and men entrepreneurs for her final thesis. She discovered that all women entrepreneurs talked about their experience and credentials humbly reflecting on their improvements areas while the men entrepreneurs always spoke highly of themselves when reflecting on their challenges.
The second event was a question I received during my engagement with the Renault HR team. One of the ladies in the audience asked me if I ever doubted my self-confidence about delivering on new projects when I had to learn new skills. My answer shocked me: I never did. It isn’t the arrogance of being invincible, rather the conviction that I can learn anything if I can put my head into it. The danger with my approach is that if I don’t ask for help from others, I end up exhausted due to the dedication and passion for learning. I only mastered the skills of asking for help in time with my second child.
The third piece of evidence that made me wonder whether self-confidence to ‘just do it’ is perceived differently by women versus man was a remark made by a driving instructor from London. He said:’ I am really surprised to see so many foreign women who used to drive day-by-day in their home-country, sometimes in tough places like India or Pakistan, coming to me for driving lessons. The women take lessons because they think their driving is not good enough for the London traffic, while their men enroll themselves as taxi drivers from the first week.
So, why do us, women feel the need to get a diploma or a training certificate before starting a new paid profession, while men demand to be paid for their work and their learning process from Day 1?
A part of me hopes that I am generalizing and that most women demand the right pay for their services and their effort but unfortunately the gender pay gap, reinforces my perception. I like to think that we women, want a certificate and need to tick all the boxes on the job requirements because we respect quality and appreciate credibility and reliability for building trust. The other part of me wonders whether we women, and especially mums, tend to loose our appetite for taking risk after becoming a parent.
What is your view? Do you see that self-confidence shows up differently for men and women as well?
I would love to hear your opinion in the comments.