Why we Need to Talk About Confidence



Are you woman? Read this. Men, do you know any women? Show them this article. It could change their career.

I was recently at a breakfast networking event on the topic of listening. You know, that part of communication that we understand makes all the difference but that can be maddeningly challenging. It was organized by the dynamic Future Factor in the glamorous, I could-so-easily-live-here setting of Soho House in Amsterdam. There were croissants the size of trucks, lashings of coffee and a number of inspiring female speakers to inform and entertain.

Sisters are screwing it for themselves.

One of the speakers was Jo Van Egmond. She’s a news anchor and one of only 2 female radio presenters on Radio 538 in The Netherlands.

Jo said something that made me laugh.

Really laugh.

Then from laughter I moved to shock, disbelief, sadness and then anger.

This is the story she told. It’s about how sisters are screwing it for themselves and how women, by doing one simple thing, could improve their confidence and improve their careers.

To set the scene, I’m pretty new to The Netherlands having lived here for just a few months. I’m from the UK originally and am used to hearing women on the radio whether that be the bright and breezy morning shows, or more serious talk based radio like BBC Radio 4. For the last 11 years I lived in Iceland where I was used to seeing and hearing women in the media host shows, interview guests and speak their minds.

And so it came as a surprise to me when Jo shared with us that she is one of just 2 female presenters.

One of two.  And remember, this is The Netherlands, in Europe.

She then continued to say that one of the factors that continues this trend is that male managers within the radio station claim that research has shown that hearing a female voice on the radio is, wait for it, irritating.

And not wanting to irritate listeners is the reason why there are so staggeringly few women on the radio.

The fact that as Jo explained this research is actually non-existent is beside the point. This myth is now out there and it’s keeping women down. And that in itself is bad enough but this wasn’t what caused a reaction in the room.

Jo then continued to say that another contributing factor as to why women are so vastly under represented on radio is because when they are asked to be part of a show or to be interviewed they say no.

Why do they say no?

Because they consider themselves too old and too fat.

Too old and too fat.

You can imagine the hilarity in the room.

And actually how bizarre this is, it being radio, not high definition TV.

Jo continued, saying that this response was never heard from men who were invited on the radio.

Can you imagine?

He’s chatting to his 18 year old son and sharing that he’s just not selfie ready.

Consider Alex. He’s confiding to his wife that although he’s been asked to chair a discussion on macro-economics on the radio, having scoffed down 7 bars of chocolate at the weekend and thanks to the fact that the extent of his exercise in the last six months  has been reaching for the remote control, he’s put on a few pounds. He simply couldn’t go the event. He is just too squidgy around the middle. It would never work.

Think about Jamie. He’s turned 50 and has had a bit of an emotional wobble. He’s been overwhelmed with the kids’ schedules, looking after his ageing parents and has not been able to get his roots done or get that facial. He’s chatting to his 18 year old son and sharing that he’s just not selfie ready enough to go on the radio and speak about his new book on quantum physics.

It would never happen, would it?


And yet put women called Alex and Jamie in these situations.

It’s a different story.

If women said yes to these opportunities the world could be a different place.

And the great thing is that each time a woman does say yes to one of these invitations it makes it that much easier the next time she’s asked, and it makes it easier for the next woman to say yes because it becomes much more of a regular thing that happens, and it encourages women to seek out opportunities for themselves rather than wait to be asked.

But that’s another blog…

And yet women are opting out when they are being invited to opt in.

Being asked to be interviewed or take part in a panel discussion shows that the host or producer thinks the guest will contribute to the discussion and enlighten, educate or entertain the audience.

Being asked also suggests that the guest is thought of as someone who has confidence. Confidence, knowledge and experience. It takes time to gain these things and being young and thin does not matter a jot.

What is making women say no to these opportunities? These opportunities where they can shine and share their expertise.

Is it that the world in 2019 is now even more fixated on looks and image?

It’s no accident that make up has gotten thicker and bolder since the selfie and Instagram world has become bigger. Merely attending any social or work event means that it’s only a matter of time before someone sticks a phone in front of you and photographs away scatter gun like across the room. And then they’re on online within minutes.

Because of this people are much more on display than they used to be. And when women are on display it means looking groomed, make up applied, clothes colour co-ordinated, matching jewellery, nails shellac-ed, shoes matching the bag.

It used to be that this kind of effort was made only when you went to a wedding where you knew there would be a slew of photographs taken. But now, we are photographed on a daily basis purely because of social media. And thanks to the growing selfie taking, photographed a lot by ourselves, really close up!

Has this dented women’s confidence so much that it’s causing them to say no to be on a radio show where the audience can’t even see them?

I’m sure there’s no disclaimer attached to the invite stipulating that a woman’s waist must be the size of a 12 year old gymnast, or that if she has a PhD but no thigh gap, then that’s it, she’s out!

And yet, saying “Oh, no, not me! I’m too old and too fat!” is coming from somewhere and that is a pretty scary fact.

If women were to say yes to these opportunities situations like there only being two radio presenters on a station would be history.

So, thick or thin, old or young, women need to step up and not be put down by myths about what people think about women’s voices on radio.

And not let how they think people see them stop them from hearing them.

To learn how to develop your confidence check out my blog tomorrow when I’ll be sharing 5 ways to reframe your thinking and 5 fun practical exercises you can do to show yourself that you already have bucket loads of confidence – you just need a gentle reminder!

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