Friday, February 18, 2011

First, Take a Deep Breath: Four Ways Women Can Build Confidence In and Support for Their Great Ideas

On Sunday, I attended a fabulous small event organized by Libba Pinchot—the heart and soul of The Bainbridge Graduate Institute; where innovation and ethics meet in the original sustainable MBA program.  The event was unique not only because of the range and breadth of experience of the eight amazing women, including author and inspirationist Sally Helegesen, the incredible food and amazing dialogue, but also for Libba’s unique approach to our group’s self-introductions.

She asked us each to name one thing that we were the most proud of recently, and (a key here) to do so without worrying about making each other feel bad. With that one statement she brought to the foreground one of the key differences in perception’s about women and men entrepreneurs.

Girls are taught, even now in this liberated and open world, to be modest about their accomplishments. There are still countless articles and blogs about the pros and cons of bragging for women. The consensus—it’s a risky business even when the bragging rights are well deserved.

I’m not suggesting that humility (or hubris) organize completely along gender lines. In fact I know some women who are all too happy to brag and a lot of men who are too modest to do so. But the fact is there are more men willing to toot their own horns than women.

And when it comes entrepreneurs, this difference represents a critical issue. When women don’t brag and overstate their confidence, they come across as lacking confidence in themselves or their business. SmartGirls’ Way has a copy of a redacted confidential study by the banking industry that shows what seems obvious to some of us—women fail to get loans for businesses that men do get loans for.  The most commonly named reason for rejection (by the loan officers themselves) was the seeming lack of confidence that women have in their business projections.

In other words—we’ve GOT to brag.

So here’s your assignment:

First: Take a deep Breath

Second: Think about the thing you did this week that was creative, courageous and/or wicked smart.

Next: Find someone important to you, your business and your success to brag to—don’t overdo it, just be authentic and appropriately proud.

Finally: Be present with their reaction. Don’t judge or be judged by it. Just note it and note how you feel about it.

If their reaction was a little put-off, know that it wasn’t personal. It’s not about you. It’s about the culture we live in, and the stories of that culture that seek to dictate our behaviors.

Where those dictates are limiting us we can (and should) challenge them.

So go ahead. Be smart and say so. Be good and say so.

And be successful and say so!

Jean Brittingham
Founder, The SmartGirl's Way

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