The Confidence Code
by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman
Have you ever read a book that spoke to so many aspects of what you struggled with professionally that you found yourself waving your arms in the air like an idiot? Maybe even making a super dumb face to go with the flailing arms? That was me. It was a Wednesday afternoon. I was in public. I was listening to the Audible version of The Confidence Code written and narrated by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman.
Preface: These opinions are being made with a admittedly very broad brush strokes. We are incredibly lucky to know many people that fall outside of the generalizations made below. (Sidenote: why do we feel lucky to know these people? shouldn't that just be the baseline?) That said, on a whole, broadly speaking, and particularly in our industry, the takeaways from this book are incredibly applicable, highly relevant and very relatable to many of us.
For me, this book spoke to the depth of my Imposter Syndrome. If you are one of the lucky ones that doesn't struggle with it, its the feeling that you don't belong where you are professionally; that at any moment someone will find out that you have duped them all in some elaborate grift that has allowed you to rise through the ranks. Kind of like this whole Elizabeth Holmes situation...only without the billions of dollars or the actual deception and conspiracy but that's how it FEELS. It FEELS like you are Elizabeth Holmes and just tricking the world into thinking you know what you are talking about. Oh, or Frank Abagnale (who now lives in Charleston I hear!) that pretended to be a commercial airline pilot, lawyer and doctor then wrote a book about it called Catch Me if You Can. Leonardo DiCaprio played him in the movie version back in 2002.
ANYWAY. The Confidence Code. Essentially, it comes down to the fact that, no, it's not just you that feels this way. There are systems in place that mold us, as women, and from a young age, into feeling that we are less-than...that we are 'good' when we are quiet and non-assertive. That this ingrained perception of what it means to be 'good' affects women in the highest levels of power, and how they manage that feeling is similar to how many of us handle it. We over prepare. We ruminate about the comment we made. We wait for other people (typically men) to start speaking up to gauge how our question will hold up next to theirs.
One of the many big take-away's from this book (and you may already know this, so if that is you, trust me that there is SO much more to this book) is that when put into group settings, women will speak up less when there are men present. If its a group of all women - we don't hesitate. When men are in a group setting they speak up just as much regardless of the groups composition. This is not because they have better ideas. This is not because they are inherently smarter. No. Among other impacting factors, they have not been trained from birth to be small like women have.
Additionally, women typically will not apply for promotions unless they are 100% sure that they meet 100% of the criteria, while men will apply for promotions before they meet ALL of the criteria. Women are regularly given raises and promotions based on what they have already accomplished - after they have already proven they could do the job competently. Men are regularly given promotions and raises as a stepping stone and a next rung for them to climb.
Recently our Board of Directors and Committee Chairs came together for a planning meeting. The conversation touched on this topic, of imposter syndrome. One of our well respected leaders, someone who has lead the chapter with determination and passion, admitted to having deep feelings of being an imposter. That all of her wild success may not have been as well-deserved as everyone thought. She asked if anyone else at the table felt that way. No less than 95% of the women at the table raised their hand.
It's not just you. Speak up.
There are so many other books that we will dive into that cover this topic through different lenses.
As always, we encourage everyone to support their locally-owned book store. If you don't know where yours is, maybe that's something fun to do this Saturday. Just a thought. If, like me, you devour books on Audible, it is also available there. Here is a link for our Audible/Amazon fans.