November 30, 2016
I have the privilege of speaking at or attending several events in the coming weeks focused on women working in healthcare technology. These will be conferences, networking events, and presentations that – in one way or another – will try to shine a spotlight on the issues working women face in this field (and in business, in general). The wage gap, mentorship, career advancement, parental and maternity leave policies, work-life balance, and other subjects will no doubt come up. They are a given, and they all stem from one personality trait that so many women have a hard time overcoming – insecurity.
It can be hard to ask for an equal wage when you’re not confident of your own worth. It can be hard to begin a mentor or mentee relationship because you’re secretly certain that you don’t have as much to offer as everyone thinks you do. It can be hard to speak frankly with your boss about climbing the corporate ladder, or family-related leave policies, if you’re more certain than not that you’ll be shot down the minute you walk into that corner office.
Some might even say that the everyday battle with insecurity is one of the greatest struggles women face. I would certainly have agreed with that statement 10 years ago. Pregnant with my first child and working full time, I was filled with insecurity about what the future held for my career and family life. Fast forward to today, however, and I can honestly say that my level of insecurity – and what I’m insecure about – has shifted dramatically. I no longer dread walking into a room full of strangers. I no longer question my own expertise. I have, however, begun to question my motives. Now that I am fairly established in my career, am I engaging in new opportunities to fluff up my sense of self-worth, or because they will present me with the chance to help someone?
Insecurity, to some degree, will always be there, and that’s fine – some might even say healthy, to a certain degree. It’s when that insecurity overwhelms us and threatens to prevent us from taking on new challenges that it becomes a problem. How can women overcome this age-old character flaw? How can we turn insecurity into confidence? My first piece of advice would be to look to the women in your lives for advice – especially those who have been working in the trenches longer. They will no doubt have many pearls of wisdom to share, and will hopefully be eager to do so. My second would be to never stop learning. Read everything you can get your hands on about your chosen subject. Network within those circles until you’re blue in the face. My third would be to share your expertise with someone who’s been at this not quite as long as you have. You may not consider your level of expertise to be high, but to someone just entering the workforce, it will likely be invaluable.
Ladies, let’s give ourselves from credit, and then pass on that attitude – and the keys to cultivating it – to the generation of women following in our footsteps. I’ve been fortunate enough to realize that, yes, it is about who you know, and it’s also about how you treat them. Do good, give back, and watch the insecurity fade away.