Influence and impact for female marketing leaders
Our CEO, Jenny, shares why reducing self-doubt is so important, and how we can act on it.
For almost half of women in leadership positions, feelings of self-doubt come from never expecting to reach the level that they have. Continuously not believing that success is deserved or genuine, or that you truly belong, is all too true for many women in senior roles, and acts as an invisible barrier to fully flourishing at work. Our CEO, Jenny, shares why reducing self-doubt is so important, and how we can act on it.
Where does self-doubt come from?
From an academic perspective, marketing is about profit, revenue, resources, and seeing human beings as a means to make more profit. Taking the humanity element out of work matters because of the way in which women lead - with empathy, creativity, and an emphasis on connections. With a workplace that is used to the reactive leadership style of men which is aligned with rules and conditions, it is no surprise that women doubt their ability to lead. Coupled with the lack of female role models and archetypes of what the C-Suite should look and act like, it’s no surprise that female leaders often question their abilities. The gap between your experience as a woman, and what seems to be expected of you becomes one that feels huge. The supposed need to have “masculine” traits of assertiveness, firmness, and showing no weakness is confusing, especially when it goes against your instincts.
Gone are the days when a CEO was only ever a middle-aged man in a suit, and it’s about time that imposter syndrome went too.
What can you do?
Take the step
While self-doubt in men might manifest in different ways, or simply ignored entirely, for women, it frequently shows up as overthinking, over-analysing and a crippling fear of failure. Putting one figurative foot in front of the other is necessary to get yourself out there and build confidence. Sitting out of pitching because you don’t have all the answers, or not putting your hand up for speaking at conferences; these avoidance tactics come from a place of self-doubt. Ultimately this prevents you from having new experiences and reaching new heights. Confidence is grown through practice and repetition, so avoiding these experiences means feeding the loop of self-doubt.
Shift your mindset
It all comes down to perception. Although being one of very few women on a leadership team or at a networking event can feel exclusionary or intimidating, reframing it turns it into an advantage instead. Standing out, and not being the same as everyone around you makes you more memorable. You can look around and see the difference you’re adding by being visible, and being present, which is rewarding in itself.
Have the conversation
Being aware of the barrier that self-doubt creates for women, and the impact that it has is the first step to making change. Even so, it’s still a difficult balance. Many can feel excluded by these conversations, which can very easily descend into man-bashing. It’s important to remember that it’s about equity, not equality. Issues like the lack of role models, and different styles of working mean women may need more of a helping hand to get to the same level. Bringing these problems to the fore is beneficial to everyone in the team. Having a balance of men and women on a team makes everyone more successful - leading to more innovative thinking, increased market value and revenue, and better perceptions of the organisation, both internally and externally.
Find your tribe
Different aspects of identity can harbour self-doubt in different ways. Someone of a different sexual orientation, race, background, or with different interests can also feel hugely excluded. Finding those that understand your values and what’s important to you allows for better conversations, and dynamics that flow better - regardless of who they are. Not everyone will fulfil this and that doesn’t have to be a bad thing.
Historically, women have not been in positions of leadership, so ensuring they have individuals to look up to and aspire towards is key in making it known that they can indeed do it, that they are qualified and that they deserve their role. So many networks are dominated by men and so our Female Lead lunches and dinners allow women at different stages of their careers to come together in an environment where they are surrounded by peers, for support, growth, mentoring, and a space to be heard.
What can your organisation do?
Understanding involves having adult conversations about the fact that life is messy, and evaluating how work can work for life, and not the other way around. Considering the needs of others and promoting kindness permeates an organisation and contributes to wellbeing and business success.
Whether it’s making sure meetings aren’t happening during the school run, or fitting working hours around home commitments, acknowledging that life happens creates an internal culture where people can thrive. A mix of thoughtful men and women on the leadership team enable this to be a reality at Yoyo.
On a larger scale, providing the freedom to pursue goals and fulfilment outside of work is part of a commitment to champion individuals and shows how business goals can work with life goals. We’ve introduced a Life Leave policy, where anyone can request extended time off, and we figure out how to make it happen, together, and make sure they have their job waiting for them.
Provide space to grow
People feel better when doing things for other people. From paddleboard litter-picking to raising money for charity, being part of something bigger than you as an individual builds skills, confidence, and happiness - and contributes to the community and the planet in the process.
If we’re helping people to build themselves up through support, time, and training, ultimately we’re removing that self-doubt and instead building skills and resilience. Mental Health First Aid training, Personal finance training, or external courses and education are all ways in which we can support our teams to be their best.
It’s not a male vs. female matter, nor is it a leadership vs. team matter - it’s about individualised understanding, maintaining strong values, and putting people first.
Creating personalised flexibility and support isn’t always easy, but it’s the right move to make - for the individual, for the team and for the business. From a commercial perspective, it builds retention and engagement, and from a personal perspective, it makes for a nicer place to work. It really boils down to treating teams well: do good to others, and they will do good for you. Celebrating women, and making them feel valued and supported does wonders for eliminating self-doubt and empowering women to succeed.