International Women’s Day: Q&A with Laia Estorach

March 25, 2019

How do you define confidence, particularly in the workplace?

Literally speaking, confidence is a feeling of having little doubt about yourself and your abilities. For me, especially in the workplace the focus is on self-confidence: believing in our own abilities and how these abilities allow us to perform our best and self-motivate when we are down.

How do you think the confidence gap affects women?

The biggest impact is it defines our own limitation and creates a condition which can limit a women’s ability to go for a promotion or ask for a higher salary. The best way to identify how the confidence gap is affecting us, is asking ourselves what will we do if we weren’t afraid? The lack of confidence is determined by our own fears and these limit our options to grow and develop further. Studies show that the confidence gap is predominately in women, but it is not exclusive, so both genders are affected similarly.

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

It is a complex question to answer with a yes or no. I believe that there is more awareness about how confidence impact a women’s career. There is still a long way to go to develop confidence in women and motivation needs to start at an early age. Parents are the initial key to build confidence and they need to tell both daughters and sons that they are strong, and they can do it.

How important have confidence and self-belief been in achieving your career goals? Please explain why.
I do believe it has helped a lot, not only in achieving career goals but in the daily work which leads to them. For me, it helped with understanding the belief cycle: if I believed that I could do it, it helped to feel it and consequently project it in my behaviours that creates the end result of the desired outcome. I have realised most of my limitations were set by myself and I needed to believe in my goals to be able to achieve it. I must admit that it’s an area that I have been working on and it’s still a work in progress; I still need to remind myself that “you can do it” and “to go for it”.

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?

I definitively have. For me, it helped to identify what were the elements that boost my confidence. I realised that expertise and knowledge were key enablers for my confidence. Equally, I identified I need for external recognition to feel that I was doing a good job, so I have to continue working on getting the inner recognition instead of expecting an external one.
Another way to overcome it is when I learned about the different types of impostor syndrome (perfectionist, superwomen, natural genius, soloist, expert) and their definitions. In more than one case I could find myself agreeing ‘yes, this is me’. 

How much has risk-taking contributed to your career development?

I wouldn’t define myself as risk-taker. However, it is a relative concept as some people considered me to be one. I have changed countries and roles (within same company) 5 times in the last 6 years and this has definitively helped to develop my career and myself personally. I think that if we don’t take risks, we don’t learn and therefore it limits our career development – however, I am a firm believer on calculated risks!

Can you give an example of a risk you’ve taken that has paid dividend?

As I was mentioning, the fact of changing so often roles in different countries it has led me to grow faster in my career than if I stayed in the same location. This comes from the fact that I had to be agile to adapt in new places, languages and professional roles which created the need for me to learn fast but equally be flexible. Sometimes I had to go with the river and not against it to reach an unplanned destination in my life or career in which was the right place to be. 

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

I am a firm believer in support programs. I have mentors and they have been key enablers to grow my confidence and help me understand the bigger picture of the organisation. I do recommend everyone, if they can to have a mentor. The key for the career progression is having people who will advocate for you and are in a decision-making position. The way to have mentors and sponsors is via networking (unless you sign up for a formal program) and this is something that as women we tend to do less; so, let’s get out there and network more!

How can confidence-building be built into career development strategies?

I think that the starting point is always the awareness. Programs that help us understand our own biases and increase knowledge of our confidence will help build career development strategies. From the awareness, the next step is the individual action plans to increase self-confidence which should be tailored and defined by the individuals with support of HR teams or coaches.

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

I hope that we get rid of the stereotypes that women leaders should replicate male-associated behaviours (alpha male). Therefore, assertively is a key quality for a leader (both male and female) and it should be respected and valued as such. Of course, I am aware that changes take time, but it is in our hands (all of us, male and female) to change these perceptions and contribute to building a better workplace.