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Why we need to stop telling women to be more confident

Why we need to stop telling women to be more confident at work

New Zealand women want to improve their strategic, financial and business acumen to get ahead in their careers and add value to their organisations, says leadership development expert Dr Sue Watson.

Dr Watson, who works with public and private sector organisations around New Zealand to grow female talent pipelines, says women are looking for more than personal development.

“What we are hearing is that women want to develop the capabilities that will support them to be better leaders and add value to their organisations,” she says.

Traditionally, training and mentoring aimed at women often focused on personal skills such as assertiveness and confidence, Dr Watson says. But now the demand is for learning around leadership capabilities, whether that’s delivered via formal training or mentoring and sponsorship.

There is also an expectation that organisations will deliver initiatives to increase the number of women in senior leadership roles.

“The feedback I get indicates women are willing to do their part to develop these capabilities, but they need our workplaces to get serious about the initiatives that will bring them through the talent pipeline,” she says.

“Women are confident, they are ready to step up, but they are not getting pulled through.”

Dr Watson is facilitating Aspiring Female Leaders Workshops for Diversity Works New Zealand in Christchurch and Wellington next month. This is open to anyone and offers women practical advice on how to develop their leadership capabilities, how to step up for opportunities in the workplace and how to progress their career.

Vodafone New Zealand Head Of Business Product & Solutions Tribe Carly Graham says, “Attending the Aspiring Female Leaders workshop a few years ago, changed how I viewed female leadership, and female professional development.

“Using facts, statistics and real stories really focused me in on the importance of business, financial and strategic acumen learning and development for female leaders, and how we can use this knowledge in the workplace.”

Graham encourages all women in her team to attend the course.

Dr Watson says supporting women to develop their leadership capability is one way that businesses can address the gender pay gap as it will result in more women in senior leadership roles.

But more importantly, organisations need people with strong strategic and business acumen to respond to increasing disruption and change.

“Women want to be part of that by bringing diversity of thinking into the leadership of organisations to support that change.”

The Aspiring Female Leaders Workshop will be held at Vodafone New Zealand’s Christchurch office on Wednesday, 6 November and at Skills Highway in Wellington on Tuesday, 19 November. For more information, head to


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