Talking Point

On the Second Day of Christmas: Confidence

Valentina Kristensen and I first met on the stage of an awards do.  I was President of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations and Val had just won Young Communicator of the Year, I had the pleasure of handing over her trophy.  It has been a pleasure to get to know her better, since 2015.

Here on our second day of Christmas blog, she reflects on Confidence.

What does confidence mean to you

Certainty and belief in one’s ability or the ability of others. It can take years to grow and nurture, and seconds to destroy – much like a reputation. It is extremely valuable and can play an integral role in one’s career, relationships and personal fulfilment. However, its balance needs to be maintained to avoid uncertainty on the one hand or cockiness on the other.

 What importance has it been to you in 2017

In a year where we saw the global growth of the #MeToo movement and the introduction of gender pay gap reporting in the UK, confidence has been extremely important in 2017, especially for women.

#MeToo has given men and women the confidence to continue speaking out and telling their stories because for many, it is the first time they are being believed and heard. It has also given them the confidence required to address sexual harassment in the workplace and stand up for friends, family and colleagues who have been victims of it.

As part of its 100 Women season, the BBC reported on research from Columbia Business School revealing that men tend to overestimate their abilities by approximately 30%. Women on the other hand routinely underestimate their abilities and this “confidence gap” has an adverse impact on their ability to secure promotions, pay raises and bonuses.

At the time of writing (21 December 2017), only 459 of the 9,000 employers who will be required to report their gender pay gap by the April 2018 deadline, have done so. However, as more and more reports are published and the media spotlight shines brighter, I think we’ll see a larger number of women having the confidence to ask for what they want in their careers.

I also think that the numerous corporate scandals this year – from Bell Pottinger’s secret campaign to stir up racial tensions in South Africa, to United Airline’s violent removal of a passenger which saw $1.4bn wiped off its value – have meant that confidence has become even more important to PR professionals. Practitioners need the confidence to speak up in the board room and advise senior management on the best way forward.

Epiphany is all about looking forward what are your hopes for 2018?

About a week ago, Marianne Schnall, one of my favourite journalists and feminists (she’s interviewed Madeleine Albright, Dr. Jane Goodall, Gloria Steinem, and Jane Fonda to name a few), wrote a brilliant article for CNN entitled “2018 will be the year of women”. Her argument was essentially that a combination of the Trump presidency and the #MeToo Movement, has meant that “women everywhere are rising up, taking the women’s movement into the mainstream.” At the same time, men are also becoming more vocal and aware of gender issues with some becoming active and invaluable allies.

In the article, she reminds us that whilst it’s been a turbulent and trying year, we are living in a watershed moment in our history and there is much to be hopeful about. Women are running for office in record numbers and the firing of several high-profile men because of sexual harassment has had the bitter-sweet benefit of creating more opportunities for women. In media for example, the dismissals of Charlie Rose, Matt Lauer, and Bill O’Reilly means that more women are co-hosting primetime news television than any other time in history.

So, I hope Marianne is right and that 2018 marks the start of what will hopefully be a future we can be very proud of.

 Who are your three wise men or women?

  • Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman, the co-hosts of one of my FAVOURITE podcasts – Call Your Girlfriend: they discuss everything from pop culture, politics, sex, and feminism, to relationships, diversity, and ethics. They’re absolutely hilarious and always present interesting and varied perspectives. I also love that they celebrate women who are changing the world and have interviewed some seriously impressive people such as Hilary Clinton.
  • Katniss Everdeen: Ok so I know she’s (sadly!) a fictional character but I still consider her to be a “wise woman”. While her strength, speed and intelligence definitely played a part in keeping her alive in the arena, it was ultimately her ability to form relationships and empathise with others that made her victorious.

 What or whom is your guiding star?

My mum – I know it sounds cheesy but as a single parent who raised four kids whilst also launching a career and scaling a business that is now in several countries, she has always been a source of inspiration and strength for me. I’ve never had to ask myself whether I want a family or a career because I’ve seen first-hand that women canhave both.

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