Series Building Executive Presence for Latin Career Women

In my LinkedIn article from September 5th, I mentioned that Executive presence is the ability of a leader to project confidence, decisiveness, and charisma even under difficult situations.

Latin professional women interested in advancing in their professional careers, can increase their executive presence by becoming more concise communicators and by increasing their level of clarity. Today I want to introduce the third success factor: Confidence, as the feeling of self-assurance arising from appreciating one’s abilities and qualities.

I’ve learned that most commonly, career women want to:

  • Build confidence and leadership skills;
  • Learn to navigate the organization effectively; and,
  • Learn how to put themselves forward and self-advocate.

When women seek support from a professional coach like me, they become more aware of their limiting beliefs and the insecurities that hold them back, even when they’re highly qualified.

“A woman lacking confidence might hesitate to speak up in meetings, fearing that her contributions will be more closely scrutinized than those of her male counterparts, or she might even refrain from applying for promotions because of a lack of faith in her qualifications”.

Some organizations have structural barriers that make it even more difficult for women to progress and have a voice. Studies have indicated that women are more interrupted by men when they speak in meetings, are passed on more times for promotions, and have less success in negotiating salaries when changing jobs. A recent survey by international staffing firm Robert Half revealed that 68% of men negotiated for a higher salary in 2018, versus just 45% of women.

Navigating internal and structural barriers can be daunting for some women. Being non-native to America increase hurdles for many highly qualified Latin professional women seeking to grow their corporate careers. Language barriers or their perception of fluency can stop a woman from speaking up in meetings. I experienced that hesitation myself when fearing not to find the right words in front of senior leaders. It was not until later in my career that I became more willing to take risks and speak up. Now, I dedicate part of my work to help career women to silence their self-doubt and embrace self-confidence so they can truly succeed in their careers.

Becoming aware of what is holding you back is the critical first step in reaching your professional goals. There are ample studies and articles written in the subject of Women’s confidence. Some of the recommendations are: Define your purpose; create solutions; make a list of contributions; collect feedback; listen and learn; be who you are; invest in yourself; embrace your progress. All of these steps are very valid.

Today, I want to share three recommendations extracted from my own experience: 1) Go Inward; 2) Stay Put, and 3) Lean Forward.

  1. Go Inward: This is about doing introspection work to explore your strengths, impact, and the difference that you make in your professional field. Collect feedback and testimonials to validate your unique value and take ownership. Once you own it, nobody can take it away from you. For me, this step has taken me to understand the impact of my work on my coaching clients and the difference that I can make. You can also identify your top strengths, the value that you bring, and the solutions that you create for your marketplace. Recognize and own your unique value.
  2. Stay Put: Own your personal power, even in the face of obstacles, rejection, and skepticism from others. When I speak, sometimes people ask me where am I from. When I tell them, they make comments about my country of origin, followed by more questions. Even when I have been living and working in the USA for more than 24 years, I feel the need to put my credentials out there: My Master’s degree, +20 years of experience working in multinationals; multiple certifications, and professional achievements. It’s tempting to vacillate and doubt if the person is taking me seriously – by their non-verbal, the questions they ask, or what they say-. But I stay put and keep my personal power even in the face of other’s biases. I choose to stand for who I am and the value that I bring, even when I have to repeat my story many times over. You can also recognize your power, stand in your two feet, and shine with your own light. Stand by yourself.
  3. Lean Forward: Be willing to put yourself out there. Have a compelling vision to guide you toward your desired destination and be willing to take risks, take action, even in the form of small steps. In 2017, I decided to take a different career direction and became accredited as a professional career and leadership coach. It was a bold move leaving behind a 30-year career in HR. This career move has become very rewarding and fulfilling. Leaning forward also means to have a voice, to increase your visibility, learning new skills, and even taking on career changes. Step ahead!

In the end, we all benefit when women overcome systemic and internal barriers, resulting in enhanced contributions. When women own their value, both businesses and their careers thrive.

I leave you with an invitation to identify your strengths, learn to self-advocate, and take bold steps in the direction of your career ambitions, even if that will imply to take some extra steps!


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