Three quarters of women lack the confidence to ask for senior roles at work

By Eleanor Steafel
12 NOVEMBER 2019 • 6:32PM

Women are more ambitious than men, but are being held back at work because they lack the confidence to speak up and ask for more senior roles, a new study has found.

Research released today by My Confidence Matters, who provide training programmes to empower women in the workplace, revealed 79 per cent of women experience a debilitating lack of confidence at work compared to 62 per cent of men.

However, the research also revealed women to be more ambitious than men, with a higher percentage of women saying they were keen to reach a more senior role than men.

In the poll, 2,500 men and women from various industries and job roles were asked questions about ambition, confidence, work-life balance, flexibility at work and self-belief. Eighty-five per cent of the women surveyed said they wanted to climb the ladder, compared to 76 per cent of the men surveyed.

On top of this, only half of the female respondents felt that, if they were lacking in confidence, they would get enough support from their manager to overcome this.

The top three obstacles cited by women preventing them from reaching their full potential, were juggling work life balance, a lack of visible opportunities at work, and confidence in their own ability.

This lack of confidence was seen across the board, regardless of industry sector, organisation or job title.

The World Economic Forum estimates we are still 202 years away from gender equality, while McKinsey asserts that bridging that gender gap could add £150bn to the UK economy.

Meanwhile Credit Suisse revealed recently the extent to which the number of women on boards directly impacts the bottom line, with the proportion of women in management increasing as the percentage of women sitting on boards rises.

Joy Burnford, founder of My Confidence Matters, said we need to “bring forward that tipping point for equality in my lifetime”.

“Organisations can do a lot more. Half the people we surveyed said they weren’t getting the support they needed.

“That’s about coaching, leadership training, those sorts of things which can give people at different levels of the organisation more confidence.”

Burnford said the research revealed organisations are slowly coming round to the importance for both men and women of offering flexible working. “It’s very pleasing to see that 70 per cent of the women we surveyed said their organisations now offer flexible working. But there is a lot of presenteeism still going on in some of the more traditional companies.”

One of the interviewees in the report, Marie Cooper, Head of People at Swim England, said: “If I was really confident, I would feel more in control and would prioritise my development and getting to the next point on the trajectory more than I do now.

“Lack of self-confidence and self-belief is holding me back from taking the next step. It has done in the past. Until I feel 200 per cent ready, I won’t put myself forward. If I had the confidence, I’d take more risks, not over-think things and go for it.”

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