Confidence, for women, is a topic we need to talk about more. Raising confident girls who mature into confident women needs to be a high priority for us. Why? Because I see too many women whose lack of confidence is holding them back. I’m not necessarily talking about career advancement, though we’ll get to that.

When I was in band, my director used to tell us, “If you’re going to make a mistake, make it a BIG mistake.” After all, that was the best way for him to hear it and help. But there was an underlying message: Be confident enough in your ability to learn to do it right that you’re not afraid to fail spectacularly here and there. After all, a bad run or a wrong note does no harm in the safe environment of practice. On stage? Well, that’s no fun for the performers or the audience. We were practicing for life in there, too. And you know what? I rarely ever let myself fail big.

Women are willing to risk for the reward of success

Nearly two years ago, BMO, Carleton University and The Beacon Agency released a study that found women aren’t as risk averse as was commonly accepted. However, we have distinctly different approaches to doing business that can be misinterpreted as such. Some of the key findings of the study showed women entrepreneurs:

  • Tend to take a relationship and longer-term approach to business and a holistic approach to calculating risk-based decisions.
  • Are eager for information that can assist in making sound decisions around risk, and are not afraid of seeking it out in different forms to grow their business.
  • Are more likely to be self-funded, rather than assuming debt from a financial institution.

I look at these findings and I see a desire to have confidence in big decisions. And that’s a great thing, especially when it comes to the longevity of a business.

Confidence and competence: All too often conflated

If you’re reading this, I bet you’ve known both men and women in leadership positions throughout your professional life. Of course, most of us have known far fewer women than men in these roles. I read The Confidence Code, by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman a few years ago. Kay and Shipman write about the neuroscience behind confidence and how we can tap into it to propel us forward.

This book came to my attention again early last summer when I read this article (written by a man) about the epidemic of overconfident men. It’s not an intentional deception, though. Men truly believe their capabilities to be as presented – one study described it as “honest overconfidence.”

Satire or reality? Competence is no laughing matter

The article went on to talk about The Peter Principle, a 1969 satirical study that asserted people in organizations were promoted over and over until they reached their level of incompetence. Even the Harvard Business Review thought this was a genuine report – they wrote two serious commentary pieces in response. Could there be some truth to the idea?

Last year, author Tom Schuller released a book in the UK, The Paula Principle (coming to Canada in August), that explores the idea that most women work below their level of competence. And guess what? One of the reasons we work below our level of competence is a lack of confidence.

What do we do about “the confidence gap”?

In The Confidence Code, Kay and Shipman talk about how we can work on building our confidence. We can change the way we think in subtle ways to give ourselves a boost in confidence. It’s nothing you haven’t heard before, but it’s not easy to do – and that’s why we need to help each other.

I’m not going to give away the tips they provided, though. I challenge you to read this book, written by women who care about helping women. Make it a priority this month as we celebrate women. You’ve got so much to offer and lack of confidence should never be the thing that holds you back. You’re worth it.


Check out our upcoming events so you don’t miss out. We’ve got your favourite regular monthly events happening – the Wine Down and the Mix and Mingle Breakfast. The BYA Gala season has officially started! You can read about our 2017 finalists here. And be sure to buy your ticket to the BYA Gala on April 19th where we’ll celebrate the finalists and announce this year’s recipients.

Karen C. Wilson, WBN President
WBN President, 2015-18
Chief Marketing Strategist and Storyteller
Karen C. Wilson Communications