Competence or Confidence in Associations?

12620165_sIn Associations Now‘s recent leadership blog “Leaning In Is Just the Beginning, Contributing Editor Mark Athitakis looks at how women in associations are stepping up and speaking out.  

The reality is women need to speak out a lot more! Women comprise roughly 75% of the association and nonprofit workforce, but hold only 45% of the top leadership positions. This is often attributed to a confidence gender gap – and research shows that confidence correlates just as closely with success as does competence. Yet women tend to hold back, play smaller and safer, and not contribute as fully as they can. Even some of the most successful women don’t take credit for their accomplishments, but attribute it to “luck” or “hard work.”

As an executive coach working in the association arena for the past ten years, and earlier as an association leader in several organizations for 15 years, I get it I’ve heard lots of different reasons for not fully leaning in and stepping into our confidence. And as Athitakis points out, this is not just a “women thing. We need our most senior leaders, male and female, to lead workplace cultures that actively support, mentor and provide opportunities for women at all levels, so that when women do speak up they do it from a place of competency and show up confidently.

An important shift I’m noticing is that many of today’s rising women leaders are actively seeking out ways to contribute more to their organizations. These younger leaders, often called Millennials – loosely defined as those born between 1980 and 1995 – think and work differently. To be competitive, now and particularly in the future, associations need to focus even more on creating a workplace culture that attracts, retains, and promotes these high-potential employees.

Numerous studies look at this group of workers and identify the unique advantages they bring to organizations. The millennial woman is more highly educated and more likely to be employed than previous generations, and she is more confident than generations of women before her. Fifty-one percent of millennial women – compared to 61% of millennial men – say they feel they will be able to rise to the top of their respective organizations. Because millennial women will comprise about 25% of the global workforce by 2020, this can mean good things for the association community.

On a personal note, I’m committed to helping these rising women leaders claim top management roles in their organizations. Earlier this year I launched the Leading Women in Associations: A Leadership Development Program for Fine-Tuning Leadership Skills and Professional Presence program for middle management and high-potential individual contributors. In this program a small group of association women come together in Washington, DC, once a month for half-a-day, over a four-month period and focus on closing the gender gap and achieving their full leadership and management potential.

Leading Women provides the tools and support for participants to leverage their individual strengths, identify potential blind spots and enhance executive presence. This highly interactive program allows participants to learn both from instructors and from one another. We cover four segments: branding yourself, understanding the impact of your messages and image on your audiences, developing relationships that matter, and creating your individual strategic plan. The learning is all geared to help participants and their associations grow and thrive.

If you’re ready to enhance your leadership skills and executive presence, and your association is prepared to support you in your journey, consider submitting an application.

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