International Women’s Day: Q&A with Fiona Williams

March 23, 2019

Frazer Jones is proud to be supporting International Women’s Day 2019. International Women’s Day celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. Whilst we all know that gender parity within the workplace has improved over the past decades, we all also know that there is still a long way to go.

We would like to join the discussion and be part of International Women’s Day 2019 #BalanceforBetter campaign on the 8th March by interviewing inspiring women we work with and, in particular, understanding the role confidence has played in their career.

Frazer Jones interviewed Fiona Williams, Head of HR, BuroHappold Engineering

How do you define confidence, particularly in the workplace? 

Confidence in the workplace means being able to deliver and be successful in your role. Feel like you are contributing in a meaningful way. Being listened to and valued.

How do you think the confidence gap affects women?

I think it prevents women from applying for a promotion or a new job because they feel they have to be 100% sure they can do it. It makes them doubt their abilities.

Do you think women’s workplace confidence has improved over the past few decades? Please explain why.

I think unfortunately attitudes in workplaces have not progressed as much as they should to allow women to feel more confident. There are still prejudices and discrimination happening in workplaces every day. Movements like Me too highlight that sexual harassment for example still happens and this can have a huge effect on women’s confidence in the workplace. We need to continue to call out behaviours that are not right in workplaces and are preventing women from progressing and achieving their full potential. This is about culture change which is not always easy to change quickly.

How important have confidence and self-belief been in achieving your career goals? Please explain why.

I think without confidence and self-belief I would never have got to where I am today. But also the belief of those around me in my abilities has given me the confidence to achieve my personal goals.  

Have you ever experienced imposter syndrome (where you doubt your achievements and have an internalised fear of being exposed as a “fraud”)? If so, how did you overcome it?

Yes I have it all the time. I constantly feel that I am not good enough or think people will wonder how I got here and what my value actually is. I have had some effective coaching recently which has helped me to address it and although I think it is something that will always be with me I have learned how to stand it down and tell myself I am good enough.

How important is mentoring, coaching and sponsorship in helping women to grow their confidence at work?

Extremely important, without recent coaching I am not sure I would be as confident as I am. It is so important not to bottle things up and being able to share stories and experiences with a coach or a mentor is invaluable. We need to share our stories more and continue to support each other in the workplace.  

What can be done to ensure a woman being assertive in the workplace doesn’t negatively impact on colleagues’ perceptions of her?

Again, I think it is about changing the culture you work in. Demonstrating to the business what good looks like and modelling those behaviours, especially at senior management level. Men and women in senior roles have such an impact on a company’s culture and can demonstrate what is acceptable or not.