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Cracking My Confidence Code

June 27, 2017

By Adeline Joshua

Young woman smiles at camera

Adeline Joshua

QUESTION: Have you ever been in a classroom or a meeting and had something to say but you were too afraid to say it? You sat there internally debating the relevance of your potential comment, you’ve pieced together the perfect wording, and just when you’ve summoned the courage, the conversation changes. Welcome to my world…

When I found out that I was going to be a USICD gender intern for the International Finance Corporation (IFC)—the World Bank’s private sector division—I was thrilled to have the opportunity to exercise my skills and passion for gender inclusion at an institution I admire. Then the fear kicked in. Did I know enough about gender inclusion to offer valuable insight? Will I be able to keep up? The first few days into the internship I wasn’t quite sure, but out of sheer coincidence, the bank organized an event that covered this very issue.

Last week, the World Bank held the “Women’s Career Conference,” where author and journalist Claire Shipman spoke about the findings of her most recent book “The Confidence Code” which she co-wrote with fellow female journalist Katty Kay. The idea originated from conversations the authors had with powerful women in politics, the media, and the military who, despite their impressive achievements, still lacked confidence in their capabilities. This prompted the authors to seek out research on whether this confidence issue affected other women as well, and it turns out it does.

Despite the fact that women are working more and are better educated now than ever before, a gendered confidence gap exists that prevents many women from advancing in their careers. According to Shipman, data shows that many women only feel confident when they are 100% sure about something versus men who only need to feel about 60% sure. This inability to have a little faith in ourselves is the reason why women are less likely to ask their bosses for a raise, or why they’re more hesitant to take credit for their role in a project.

All of this information prompted me to think about the sources of my insecurities. For one thing, it’s really hard to be a young professional woman with a visible disability. On top of having to deal with gender and age stigmas, women with disabilities have to put up with condescending people who think they know what’s best for us better than we do. As a result, I feel this added pressure to do everything right because when disability isn’t encountered in a person’s everyday life, you become an ambassador, and I am not about to be the person who messes up that responsibility.

So where do I go from here? Well, Shipman says women need to do a lot less thinking and a lot more doing, and I completely agree. Having confidence is a choice, and if we want to see big wins in our future, we need to take big risks and not worry about what other people think. Now don’t get me wrong, I’ll probably continue to mull over things to say at meetings like I’m drafting the next great American novel in my mind. But I’m a work in progress, and I’ve been doing well so far, so I must be doing something right.

Adeline Joshua is a member of the 2017 cohort of the USICD Youth in International Development and Foreign Affairs internship program.  She and other USICD program interns are writing a series of blog posts about their experiences with USICD’s internship program and other topics, to be posted at this blog during the summer.  USICD coordinates the internship program, which brings a cohort of students and recent graduates with disabilities to Washington, DC, each summer to complete internships at various international organizations in the Washington, DC, area.  The internship program was enabled by funding support from the Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation (MEAF). Adeline Joshua is completing her internship at the International Finance Corporation (IFC) at the World Bank.  Read the biographies of our interns in the summer 2017 program.  Or read blog posts by other current and past interns. The views and opinions expressed at this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of USICD, MEAF, or IFC or World Bank.


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