Women held back by ‘lack of self-confidence’

Many female professionals are concerned about their lack of gravitas at the highest level. Picture: Neil Hanna

Many female professionals are concerned about their lack of gravitas at the highest level. Picture: Neil Hanna

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A LACK of self-confidence among women remains a ­major barrier to boardroom ­diversity in Scotland, new ­research has suggested.

The Institute of Directors (IoD) in Scotland interviewed more than 80 women in senior positions to gauge their views on barriers to advancement, ahead of celebrations later this month to mark International Women’s Day.

IoD Scotland executive ­director David Watt said the findings indicate that despite the myriad initiatives and training programmes available, many female professionals are concerned about their lack of gravitas at the highest level.

“It’s clear that one of the key issues blocking boardroom diversity is the lack of self-confidence to apply for positions, get through the interview process and sometimes, if successful, a lack of assertiveness in the boardroom,” Watt said.

“Of course female directors and potential directors are skilled – both technically and strategically – yet it seems this is another hurdle that requires to be crossed. No matter how many initiatives there are, coming from either training providers or legislators, if we don’t tackle the confidence issue, then we won’t see much-needed change coming about.”

Roughly 70 per cent of those surveyed said they would like to take on a non-executive role, while 43 per cent wished to tackle a public appointment. One-quarter expressed the desire to become a trustee.

But 64 per cent said they would also like more support in the application process, or additional coaching on boardroom behaviour.

Lack of time also emerged as a barrier. Some women felt they were unable to network to the extent needed to secure ­positions, while others didn’t feel they had the time to serve a board over and above their ­existing role.

Others, however, said they were simply frustrated. Despite qualifications and experience, their applications for senior executive positions have failed.

Caroline Donaldson, director at Glasgow-based Kynesis Coaching, said many women struggle with the issue of gravitas. Kynesis leads much of the work in this area for IoD Scotland, which itself has achieved gender-balanced board membership.

“Gravitas is one of the most prized skills in the boardroom – and rightly or wrongly, it’s intrinsically connected to the male of the species,” Donaldson said.

Following International Women’s Day on 8 March, IoD Scotland is hosting a Women on Boards event on 9 March in Edinburgh.

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