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On Friday 27 February, Big Think partner PwC hosted its second global webcast focused on the question, ‘What would you do if you were not afraid?’ The webcast was part of ‘Aspire to Lead: The PwC Women’s Leadership Series’.
58 min

Are you just starting out in your career? Are you keen to learn more about building your confidence at work? Or are you interested in becoming a better leader?

On Friday 27 February, Big Think partner PwC hosted its second global webcast focused on the question, ‘What would you do if you were not afraid?’ The webcast was part of ‘Aspire to Lead: The PwC Women’s Leadership Series’.

The event took place in PwC’s London office with around 200 students attending. The panel webcast featured ‘The Confidence Code’ authors – Katty Kay and Claire Shipman, Eileen Naughton – Managing Director of Google UK and Ireland and Mike Fenlon PwC’s Global and US Talent leader, and was viewed by thousands of people across the globe.

Presentation of Sound Bites

You’re on a journey when it comes to confidence.  Certainly I was not as good about coming off confident in a room when I first started my career today.

I think that we woman, we need to make sure that we know what we want and be more ambitious and be ready for the opportunity when it comes even if you’re not ready, what I have learned is that you can grow.

Without taking risks, you will not grow – you will not change and, the contributions that you have, the talents that you have will not find expression.

If you’re going to continue to evolve and grow in fast paced changing environment, you’ve got to take risk. 

If you’re not willing to speak up in a meeting people won’t even remember who you are, don’t lose that spark, and don’t feel threatened by the fact that you’ve got very senior people in the room.

The most important thing is not to be shy, to express your opinion to ask questions, to admit if you don’t know something, but to be up for and to be eager to learn about something.  Push for taking risks doing different things, going out of the comfort zone, innovating, trying different things. To do that you need to not be afraid and to explore new territories.

If you’re not confident in yourself then how can you expect people to have confidence in you?

Inevitably things will not always go as we had planned.

Often we learn more from what we did not do well.

Success is not about perfection, we expect people to be excellent but excellence is not perfection.

Resilience play a very important part in how we bounce back from mistakes from problems, from challenges, and over the time that you view the confidence saying I am resilient, I can bounce back.

It’s really hard to talk about why you’re so great, but you have to do it.  So you have to let others know what you’re doing, whey you’re doing it, and why it matters, what the impact is.

If the only stories that get told are from the people who are confident enough to naturally sell themselves, or over-sell themselves as the case may be, then the full story will never be told.

When it comes to confidence when you say something with impact everybody knows it.  At that point it’s not about gender it’s about your expertise.

Mike Fenlon

What would you do if you were not afraid?  

It’s a powerful question, it goes to the heart of our ability to achieve our potential as individual, and today we’re going to explore this issue of confidence, confidence in our ability to achieve our potential. 

How do we build our confidence? 

I’m Mike Fenlon, I serve as the Global Talent Leader for PwC and on behalf of all of my partners and colleagues across our global network I want to welcome you to Aspire to Lead.

Today we’re going to do a deep dive into this question what would you do if you weren’t afraid?  

As much as this series is dedicated to women in leadership development, we know that we have a very diverse audience today.  We have thousands of students across the world joining us, I think the earliest breakfast parties are going on right now in San Hose and along that West Coast; we have late night groups gathering throughout Asia.

We believe we will have individuals in almost 100 countries joining us in this webcast over time.  So thank you and we also have many clients, senior executives, because this question of confidence is relevant of course for all of us.

I want to make this question very real, very personal, so let’s start this issue with confidence in our potential and I’m going to ask everyone right now, everyone listening, I’m going to ask you to think about one person in your life who is not achieved his or her potential.  It might be a family member, a relative, it might be a neighbour, a friend, a colleague, someone you’ve known over the course of your life that you can think of right now and you can see them, who has not fulfilled their potential because of a lack of confidence, and that lack of confidence has prevented them from overcoming obstacles, whether those are external obstacles or internal.  

And, as we speak to thousands of students around the world right now, what an exciting time of life, no doubt you’re looking towards the future with some excitement.  Perhaps as well though with some anxiety, maybe even some fear.  Will I be able to achieve my potential?   Do I have the confidence to overcome barriers, to overcome challenges, anxieties, it’s a powerful question and it’s a very real one. 


Now I actually want to anchor our discussion in an equally real story and it’s a story of confidence and it starts in Mongolia, in a place far away, a young girl being raised by a single mom and living in a nomadic village for first ten years of her life.  Her mother is desperate that her daughter obtains opportunities that she’s never had.  Ultimately, they move to Ulan Bator the capital of Mongolia, and then they take an even bigger risk and they move to the United States.  

Now when they moved to Denver they don’t know anyone, they only have a distant relative they’ve never met before, and they don’t speak a word of English.  Imagine that, moving to another country, it’s just you and your mom, you don’t speak English, you’re starting a new life – filled with hope but also fear and anxiety.  

Well, that individual is here with us today Chempka Tascheker  and that picture you may be seeing right now is Chempka as a young woman in school.  This morning, over breakfast, we were talking about her very first day in school in the States, what that was like to walk down the hallway, and she still remembers it to this day, very clearly of course and the fear, the fear that had been building up for months, about this first day at school. 

It meant she would have to work harder, it meant she’d have to put in longer hours; it would be hard to connect with others.  But over time she did connect she built friendships and she started to get good grades.   That led to graduation and then ultimately the University of Denver.   

Chempka won our Aspire to Lead video contest and we’ve flown Chempka and her mother here to join us in New York, in London I should say sorry!  I’d like to introduce Chempka and her mom if you would both please stand for a moment we can recognise you.  We are delighted you’re here and we’ll here from Chempka a little bit later in our broadcast.   

So let’s begin, and I’d like to do some brief introductions.

To my left Eileen Naughton, distinguished executive of a really extraordinary career, currently Eileen leads Google UK & Ireland, and previously has held senior executive roles at Google, and before that was president of Time Magazine and Time Group of publications, so we’re thrilled and delighted that you’re here joining us today Eileen.

Eileen Naughton

It’s good to be here thank you.


Mike Fenlon

Katty Kay, distinguished journalist, anchor of BBC America.  Has covered Washington DC, scandals, elections and has reported I think from every continent in the world except maybe Antarctica, I think I’m not sure. 

Katty Kay

I’ll get there ...

Mike Fenlon

Yes you’ll get there!


And Claire Shipman, a similarly distinguished journalist, national contributor.  Claire, earlier in her career, worked for CNN and covered the collapse of the Soviet Union; I believe you actually saw Boris Yeltsen in a tank, is that right?  In Red Square?

 Claire Shipman

Yes, yes I did. 

Mike Fenlon

And Claire has covered the White House and other very distinguished reporting. So we’ve got a fantastic panel here.   

Again, let’s start in a very personal place and maybe if each of you could share a time in your own life when you felt you lacked confidence and how you dealt with that, and maybe contrast that with a time when you did have confidence and what led to that.   

What can we learn from that contrast? 

Claire Shipman

Well its interesting Mike, I was thinking a lot about this and Katty and I wrote a book on confidence and it was really through that project that I started to understand that I have lacked a lot of confidence in my career but I didn’t always recognise it as such.  

I’m a real perfectionist, little obsessive, and I would appear on a lot of political panels, for example when I was covering politics, and I would appear on these panels and I was always very determined to get everything right all the time.  I would study, sometimes my husband and I were on these panels together – he didn’t prepare at all, I was preparing, I was working, I was taking notes, I was anticipating.  And then I would appear on the panel and of course I would stick to the question that was asked, I would listen, I was always the only woman on the panel.  I would listen to the men ramble on, go off on other tangents, and I was very focused on keeping to time, making sure I was doing it right, staying with the answer.  

I always thought I had done pretty well, as we worked on this book, I started to think more of risk taking as part of confidence, I think I talked a lot less than the men on those panels but I’m not sure.  I went back and I took a year’s worth of panels and I measured – I had talked 30% less than the men on the panels.  So what I had viewed as something I had done very well, checked the box, I actually think in retrospect I didn’t do well at all.  

I contrast that with a big failure that I had a couple of years ago which was I wanted to try to speak without notes, I’m a bit of an introvert and – again – a perfectionist when I speak in public I want to have everything written out, I want to be precise and I gave a fairly disastrous speech at one point because I thought I’m just going to try it, I bet I can do it. 

It did not go over that well.   And, eventually I learned though what I needed to speak without notes, that I needed a little bit of notes and it was that failure in fact that I came to realise was a reflection of confidence, my willingness to do something that was really terrifying to me and it actually helped me grow.  So I’ve started to look at confidence in a new context.   

It’s not, as I heard one of your speakers, say necessarily about success or getting something perfectly right it’s about taking a risk.

Mike Fenlon

Thank you.

Kitty Kay

You know Mike it’s interesting listening to those voices around the world, we had Rwanda, we had Germany, we had France, we had China represented on that video and actually, a lot of the women were saying the same thing take a risk, be prepared to fail, do things that are hard for you because that’s how you grow your confidence. 

For me, I’m going to tell a very concrete example, a while ago I was invited into The White House to a meeting on the Middle East.  I turned up at this meeting and I walk in, a bit like Claire, its fourteen men and two women.  

They all speak Arabic and Farsi and they know Middle East politics and I walk in and I immediately feel like a fraud. I’m in the wrong place; I’m a journalist, I don’t deserve to be here. 

So I’ve listened to the presentation from the National Security Council staff of the White House and its intelligent discussion and it comes to the period of question and answer.   The men in the group all jump in with questions and I sit there and think to myself there cannot be two women in this room and we don’t ask a question.  So I think I’m going to ask a question, it’s not my speciality, but I will ask about the Middle East, then I start thinking but you know what but if I do everyone will look at me and they’ll realise I don’t know what I’m talking about, and then I’ll probably blush (because I tend to blush) and I might sweat a bit and then I’ll probably stumble, and all of this is going through my head and it probably would have been more useful to listen to the discussion frankly, rather than get obsessed in my own thoughts.   

But eventually I almost had to force myself to put my hand in the air and get the question out and it wasn’t the most intelligent question in the history of questions but it wasn’t the most stupid either, and the sky didn’t fall on my head and the earth didn’t open up and swallow me whole.  

I think what happened in the growth of confidence for me was that the next time I was in a very similar situation, I knew I had done it before and I had banked on the course of that excruciating hour in the White House where I felt I didn’t deserve to be there, and I felt I didn’t belong, I had gone through something that was very difficult for me personally.  It sounds ridiculous that should be so hard for me, but in that setting it challenged my confidence and I did it and I survived and I succeeded enough and the next time around it was much easier and I could do it without that fear and trepidation.  

That was expanding my confidence.

Mike Felon

Thank you.

Eileen Naughton

So, I have a fantastically not dissimilar observation – and we have not rehearsed!  

I was working after university and I noticed the good jobs were going to the young men with MBA’s and I decided to go off to business school.   I was a reasonably good writer, I had worked as a journalist before going to business school and so I was very often selected to be on the work teams with the 0:15:23 unclear who needed a good writer and we worked all night on this presentation, it was due the next day to be presented in stand up format.  

Because I was writing it I wasn’t rehearsing, and I got up there and I was in a cold sweat and my voice was shaking, I’d written the damn paper and the guys were swimming through it because they’d had time to rehearse and I though never again, that’s never going to happen to me again, I will always take the time to prepare.  

It was one of those signals that I didn’t realise - I mean one of the greatest fears people have is fear of public speaking for some strange reason.  I’ve got over it; I got over it in a very big way. 

Several years later working at Time Warner we were hosting the first ever webcast of the company quarterly business meeting, and the chairman of Time Warner and others were there and I happened to be tagged as a speaker – I was working on a strategic project it was an update.  

The day before I’d had an unexpected long afternoon in the doctor’s office with my then 15month old son who received a very difficult genetic diagnosis and I learned he would be disabled for the rest of his life.  I had to go back to the office, this was before power point, and finish making my slides.  This was one time where I really didn’t have that afternoon to prepare.

I was not as prepared as I’d taught myself to be for public speaking, but when you get the worst kind of diagnosis that as a parent you will ever fear getting, everything else pales into comparison and all those silly little petty fears melted away and I went up on that stage the next day, reasonably prepared, and I nailed it.  

Because, a much more serious matter had replaced the fear of speaking and that was the worst fear I had was realised, something dreadfully wrong with my child’s health.  Flash forward he’s 22 and he’s learning to be a master farmer, he’s handsome, he’s 6.4 foot, he’s wonderful – but he’s also quite disabled and he won’t live independently, so I overcame that fear and other fears that I didn’t even probably recognise because of that single event. 

Mike Fenlon

Thank you.

I want to thank each of you for those powerful, very personal examples, and I think for each of us as well they start to offer some insight into how each one of us can build our confidence and by the way – we have a special request for men to be engaged in this dialogue – we’ll come to that a little bit later across the webcast around the role of men in this conversation around gender and leadership.


But maybe we could talk a little bit about the confidence code. It’s a fantastic book if you have not picked it up I urge you to do that, to read the book.

Katty & Claire, maybe you could share with us some of the insights.  What is your advice for overcoming these internal obstacles, external obstacles, for all of us?

Katty Kay

For a start maybe why we wrote this book – the Confidence Code.  

Claire and I had worked a lot with women in senior positions looking at the value of women in the workforce and we all know now there are half a dozen global studies that show organisations that employ more women at senior levels are doing better than their competitors.  

So we would interview these incredibly senior women in business, in politics, in the military, in sports; even in journalism, and we kept hearing the same thing from women along the lines of ‘you know I’m just lucky to be where I am’ or ‘I was in the right place at the right time’, or, I’ve been offered this promotion but I actually don’t think I’m ready for it yet’. 

It occurred to us that we never heard men say things like this and we started to wonder was this just anecdotal or was there actually a gap in confidence between men and women, and we started looking into the research, we interviewed dozens of psychologists, and unclear 0:19:41 and we found this pretty compelling case that when it comes to their work lives, not their personal lives, women are less confident than men. 

Claire Shipman

We were surprised to find hard data on this and a lot of it is corporate data.  Corporations that have surveyed their employees and they find, for example, women will apply for a promotion when we feel we have roughly 100% of the qualifications for a job, men will do the same at about 60%.  

There’s academic data where they measure performance on tests and what men and women think of their performance, although they’ll score about the same on these tests, women routinely underestimate how they’ve performed, men overestimate how they’ve performed.  

So we saw so much data that really boiled down to that women tend to underestimate their abilities and we saw it again and again. 

We also did a deep dive into the science of confidence, where does it come from?  Why is there this gap?  And we were surprised to find that part of confidence is genetic, we didn’t think we would discover that.

Katty Kay

Claire and I tested our own genes, which may have been a rather foolish thing to do, to see if we had the genes that would predispose us to confidence.  And we found we don’t.  

When it comes to our genetic predisposition we are pretty much basket cases!!  So then we realised that actually, although there is some genetic predisposition to feeling more confident in life, about somewhere between 25/50% the rest of it is a choice and women can make choices – all of us – can make choices every day in our lives to expand our confidence and I think it’s worth looking at a couple of the reasons why women are less confident than men. 

Claire Shipman

It’s interesting because we found the genetics really isn’t a factor because we didn’t find a big gender difference in terms of genetics.  What we did find was first of all, and this won’t surprise anybody here, but the fact that there’s an uneven playing field is a big reason – there is so much data on stereotypes, and the fact when you’re in a minority you go into the office or whatever you’re doing you don’t feel as confident you don’t perform as well and so that affects our confidence.  

We also found it very interesting though, and this is so important for our young people to understand because we kept saying young women are doing so well academically what’s going on?  What’s happening in this transition from academia to work?  

Carol Dwek, who wrote Mindset is just brilliant, said to us ‘look if life were one long grade school women would rule the world.  Life is not one long grade school and the rules change dramatically’, so young women grow up, and we’re so much more able to be perfect, we’re so much more able to please people, our EQ is a little bit higher and we grow up pretty quickly internalising that as something for which we’re valuable.  

We need to please people, we need to get everything right on the spelling test, and by the time we’re in high school many of us are full blown perfectionists.  


Men on the other hand learn to screw up pretty early, and they learn that it’s ok because they’re doing it and they see that they grow up more accustomed to risk taking.  

 So what we came to find in terms of what we can do about confidence, a lot of it is about this perfectionism and a willingness to look at failure, to take risks and that’s something that we see that a lot of young women, and older women, are still lacking.  

Katty Kay

So there’s a kind of action side of confidence, we came up with a great definition for confidence. 

Which is:  confidence is this stuff that turns thoughts into action.  You need confidence to take action, but you also get more confident when you take action.  

So when you go outside your comfort zone, when you try things that are difficult, when you challenge yourself that – as we have done at stages – that’s when you grow your confidence.  The other flip side of this I think for women that is worth mentioning, before we get onto specific steps, is that women tend to think and think and sometimes over think things.  We have a tendency much more than men do to, what psychologist call, ruminate.  

The smallest criticism that we get, something goes wrong, a friend doesn’t return our call, a boss doesn’t answer our email we start internalising that and worrying about it, we are like a dog with a bone; we don’t let it go, we are worrying and worrying, and worrying, and if you are doing that combined with holding yourself to a very perfect standard and being concerned about taking risks and failure, all of it combined seems to limit women’s confidence.

Claire Shipman

So when we talk about an action plan in our book, and I think we have a slide which shows some of the tips we have, the number one thing we talk about is get comfortable with failure. 

Here we say this is our challenge to all of you listening today, to make risk taking part of your daily diet.  You heard every woman in the PwC video talk about taking risk, and I think for all of us risks will seem different.  For some of us it’s risky to speak in public, for others it’s risky to turn in something that isn’t perfect, and for some people we talked to – a friend of ours just making decision is a risky business, and a real fear of just deciding.  

So I think you’ve got to figure out what it is that’s hard for you and frightens you and start very small, because the key is if you’re not willing to fail – and indeed if you’re not doing some failing - you’re probably not growing and you’re certainly not succeeding in a way that will be meaningful in the workplace. 

Katty Kay

The second tip that we came across the really big thing was to do with this other component of thinking and over thinking, making rewiring a routine part of your life.  

So take an example where you’ve emailed somebody at work, they haven’t replied you start thinking, oh my goodness they think I’ve done something terribly wrong, it must be all my fault, they’re all mad at me, which I have to say is something that Claire and I are very prone to doing, and assuming this is about us, and the reality is that probably something else is going wrong and you can rewire the way you think about things.  

It was actually a neuroscientist that came up with this for us and it was such a brilliant piece of advice, that when you get into one of those cycles that are very confidence damaging of thinking that you have done something wrong, and you shouldn’t be there, and somebody’s mad at you, and you’re a fraud, come up with an alternative scenario, come up with an alternative explanation of why they haven’t emailed you back.   

They haven’t emailed me back because they’re busy, they’re travelling, they don’t email in the evenings they usually email in the mornings, that process of giving your brain an alternative scenario can actually eventually rewire the way you think.

Claire Shipman

The science on brain plasticity is so exciting and they’re learning more minute by minute but they can see now that these basic cognitive behavioural therapy techniques changes the way our brain works. So don’t underestimate your ability to rewire your brain.  

We also say tap into your authentic strengths.  This was something that was really exciting for us to discover which was confidence really will not look the same for everybody. I think we all have a very stereotypical idea of what confidence is, and often it’s that mad men style of confidence, it’s bravado, it’s swagger, it’s the person who talks first, talks the loudest, or dominates the meeting. 

What we came to realise actually, with the help of Christine Lagarde who was an enormous help for our book the first female head of the IMF, she said ‘look we cannot as women risk losing what we do very well simply to behave in a way that men may behave more naturally’, and that’s when we started to realise that way of behaving may in fact be a way of behaving.  

It may not be confidence, that there is a quiet confidence, we had a lot of fascinating conversations about confident listening, analysis, different ways of contributing which still mean your voice will be heard, but thinking about what is authentic to you and not wearing someone else’s armour is critical.

Katty Kay

Yes, because then it’s impossible really to be confident.  And, I think for women it’s very important that we have a sense of what passing confidence on looks like to, not just to our colleagues and our friends but to our daughters as well.  

Women are very, very good at being great friends, we’re great at telling each other, you’re wonderful, you’re perfect, everything’s going to be fine, you’re just great as you are, they don’t recognise you.  

We’re less good at saying take a risk, just get out there and do it, take a nudge, take a chance, stop sitting there and worrying about it now get on and do it.  And I think actually that’s the most useful thing that we can do to our colleagues to pass it on. 

Claire Shipman

Actually, the more you focus on somebody else’s confidence the more confident you feel.  So there is a side benefit to that and do it afraid. 

It’s funny because I came across this conference Katty and I were attending and a lot of people ask us well what about ‘fake it till you make it’ does that make sense, and we have said in our book ‘no’ especially for women because we are already so prone to feeling like frauds that consciously going into something faking it doesn’t make sense.  

 Nonetheless to start the cycle of confidence and taking action and failing, and risk taking, you sometimes just sometimes need a jump start and I think that’s what the ‘fake it till you make it’ was used for.   And, what we mean by do it afraid is acknowledge you’re in a situation that is frightening to you, it makes sense that often you’re in a situation, as Katty was, you’re the only woman in a room full of men or you’re starting a new job, acknowledge that that is normal and then make a decision to do it anyway.  

A lot of times we’ve had men say to us but we don’t feel confident all the time either and one of the key differences between men and women is that men will often use that fear as an impetus for action.  Women often use the fear to hesitate.   

So do it afraid, know you’re afraid and do it anyway.  That’s a great challenge to all of you today 

Mike Fenlon

Thank you.

And again, I want to remind everyone, one of our goals here today in ‘Aspire to Lead’ is that we all leave with a specific action that we can apply to our own lives.   

We’ve talked a lot about confidence being a very powerful determinant in our lives in our ability to fulfil our potential.  

So, as we go through the webcast to think about this, you’ve both just shared five specific actions, what’s the one action that I could take and commit myself to and after we finish the webcast have a discussion with someone, perhaps you’re in a group today, perhaps you’re by yourself but identify that action and share it with others and there’s enormous power and energy in doing that.

So with that, Eileen, I know that Google like PwC is very focused on diversity and inclusion and perhaps you want to share some observations from your own really extraordinary career experience as well as from what you’re learning at Google.

Eileen Naughton

Google is a large tech company.  It is pretty much an innovation company but technology is at the core of Google and I showed up there almost nine years ago from a background in journalism and I was on the business side of journalism for many years at Time Inc and the magazine company.  

So I’m like just about everyone who shows up at Google, suffered a little bit in the beginning from imposter syndrome.  It’s one of the metrics we actually measure across engineers, product managers, marketing people, professionals, it’s a very high performance culture, we hire mostly A-students (A+ Students in fact) and so anyone getting there at first is a little bit intimidated by the cohort.  So just like anyone else, I didn’t know how to code, I showed up I was in general management and business leadership.  

I went on one of these leadership programmes where I was paired off for an expedition, I had a map – or I was in a group that had a map and a sat nav (this was before your phone could act as a device which could help you get through the woods), we had five treasures to find.  

So of course, the guys took the equipment, they took the map and they took the sat nav, and they were engineers. So I thought ok they must know what they’re doing, and I’m going along, looking at the map over this guys shoulder and they’re moving along, they gave up looking for the first thing and I said wait a minute, there it is. It was way up in a tree and I used my eyes!   

Then we went to the next target zone and they’re walking around, walking around, walking around, and I just thought well if I were hiding something I would hide it ‘there’, and I found the second thing, and then I found the third thing.  All of a sudden I was the most popular girl on the team, and I realised I’m not an imposter, I have eyes they work, I have intuition, I have experience, and from that point forward I no longer suffered (and that was probably within six months of joining Google from imposter syndrome.  I think that it’s a tendency in any new environment where we think maybe ‘I’m not worthy to be in this cohort’ so I would encourage anyone who is listening to be courageous and believe in the experience and the strengths and skills you naturally have and assert them, and don’t give control over to a presumptively more gifted, more technical or more expert person.  That’s a personal story.

Inside Google we do work extensively on raising the confidence and participation of women in the workforce.   Like any tech company Google has low numbers of females relative to the population so we, in June of last year, published our diversity statistics, we have about 30% females globally and it’s particularly low in the engineering side of the business.  As you might imagine in human resources and legal there’s a higher representation of women.

There have been a number of programmes we’ve launched, one has been an unconscious bias training where most/all employees have been invited, more than half have completed this training around just understanding the unconscious biases that each one of us carries.  

It’s male and female, we have bias about educational background, we have bias about skin colour, we have bias about country of origin, that is not necessarily intended or even something one is self-aware of but they exist and when you start understanding that everyone may have influence that is unclear 0:35:14 you behave a little differently, you’re a little more sensitised, and I think that alone has been a great progression.  

We insist on it in every interview panel for a new employee, there has to be women considered, and it’s harder in the technical fields to find qualified engineering talent, but we have a very strict and measured mandate to do so.  

We score ourselves on how well we do against this and then we have programmes specifically for women, and women in their younger years of management, in one programme is called the stretch programme, teaching them confidence, the ability to negotiate, to stand and speak spontaneously, to assert and defend a position without a whole lot of preparation and format, and just getting them more comfortable being assertive because, as Katty and Claire have indicated, all the data suggests women are more retiring and more withholding and more ruminative and trying to break that cycle a bit.

Mike Fenlon

Thank you.

Why don’t we then talk a bit about men?

 Eileen Naughton

I love men!

Claire Shipman

We do love men!

Eileen Naughton

I’m married to one! 

Mike Fenlon

So let’s talk a bit about men, because it’s interesting as I’ve read the books, I’ve attended meetings, Aspire to Lead last year we did Aspire with Cheryl Sandberg and Rachel Thomas of Lean In, fabulous session, but you know I started to feel a certain weight in the pit of my stomach because what I observed was women talking to women, which was great, Lean In circles were forming, that’s how I got your book – one of my colleagues gave me the book, their Lean In circle read Confidence Code, but women were leaving these meeting and discussions with long lists of ‘to do’s in some instances to be a bit more like men, leaning in, being more assertive

But what were the discussions men were having?  And what were the actions for men?  What’s the place for men in this dialogue?  I think these are very important questions and today actually we wanted to explore that question as well and we have some actions and ideas to share and I’d love for any of you to share your own reactions.  

PwC’s global chairman, Dennis Nally, recently announced at the Davos World Economic Forum that we’re serving as a global impact partner with the United Nations initiative ‘HeForShe’ that’s the symbol that I happen to be wearing on my lapel, ‘HeForShe’.  And we’re going to ask all the men today are you ‘HeForShe’?   

But let’s talk about what that means in substance and some specific ideas and so the first idea is to start by listening, so engage the women in your life, your colleagues, maybe fellow students, ask questions and listen. How is their experience different from your own?  Work hard to empathise and put yourself in their shoes.  

We also want you to look at your network, we know that – and this is true for all of us regardless of gender – we tend to build networks that are very similar to ourselves, we know there’s enormous power, research has proven this for your career in having a broad, diverse network, so for our men who are part of our dialogue today.  What does the diversity of your network look like?  Is it just like you?  What can you do to increase women as individuals you are connected with as part of your personal network?  How can you have more women in your network?  So assess your network and diversify it.  

Blind spots.

Eileen you mentioned the work you’ve done at Google and blind spots, we’ve done similar work at PwC working with professors like Mahzarin Banaji at Harvard and her extraordinary work, in fact, you’ll see the URL and I would urge you to go there if you want to experience your own blind spots – you don’t need to take our word for it that we all have blind spots, or implicit biases, that’s part of the human condition, but the point is to recognise them and then to do something about them.  

Understanding that it’s not acceptable to simply box others in based on stereotypes or automatic thoughts and beliefs I have that shape, of course, our behaviour, so as men it’s a great opportunity for us to build our self awareness.

Standing up for inclusion.  What does that mean?  Well we all, whether we’re a student or an executive, journalist, we spend a good part of lives, in groups, team meetings and waking up and paying attention;  who is speaking;  who isn’t’;  who is being heard;  who isn’t ?   And standing up and really making sure that everyone’s voice is heard and being inclusive.  

We know in the world we’re in today, there’s never been a better premium in getting the best ideas enabling everyone to contribute to their best potential.  There’s lots of research that has shown that groups that include women outperform groups that don’t have that kind of gender diversity groups just with men, start ups led by women - there is evidence that they outperform, boards that have women on them – those companies outperform, there’s research related to revenue, market share, client satisfaction, you name it.  So this also goes to bottom line results and performance.   

The point is as men, let’s stand up and be advocates for inclusion, let’s make our voices heard and one way you can do that right now, on your phone is go to ‘’ make a public commitment and then follow it up with some of the actions we’ve talked about and men let’s start talking to each other, it’s not enough for women to be convening, let’s start talking to each other and then ultimately leaning in together with women to create and inclusive environment.  

Whether that’s in our universities or in our workplaces, and I don’t know whether any of you have observations or reactions around some of these gender dynamics or differences .. 

Katty Kay

You know Mike, it’s so interesting when we brought out the book and obviously we were often speaking to female audiences and we suddenly started to notice two things.  One is that the impact we could have with organisations was much bigger when we had men in the room, when we could include men in this conversation and make them feel part of it and make them realise that this was not really a gender issue, this was really an issue of improving organisations for everybody.  

We have better organisations when we have diversity at the top, we just do, and the evidence is incontrovertible.  But one of the things we found when the book came out was we would have men come to us and say ‘wow, I see this in my wife and I see this in my daughter, I just didn’t understand it’ and that gets to your point number one – ask questions and listen.

I remember Claire and I did an event with a big global corporation, hospitality corporation, and a male executive at the end of the session was asked to give his thoughts on it and he stood up and said ‘you know what, I’ve had to women recently in my division who I’ve suggested have gone for a promotion and they’ve both told me they weren’t ready, but I didn’t realise that this was a phenomenon, that something bigger was going on that just these two women happening to say that they weren’t ready’.

I think this process of helping men understand and men wanting to understand, they know because they see it in their partners and they see it in their own daughters, and the number of dads who have come to us and said ‘I have my daughter and she’s so smart, and she’s graduating from college, and I see her hold herself back’.

Claire Shipman

I think it can be a tough subject for men because men can feel defensive that progress hasn’t been made, there are a lot of firms that have been trying for a lot of years to make progress and I think sometimes there’s a sense of ‘what are we doing wrong’ they also can view it as a touchy subject, do you really want to talk about female confidence, is that an accusation and so I think it really is, when you can have conversations that are inclusive and really do educate.  

We had a gentleman from a different firm, an investment bank, at one point say to us ‘I realised we had an issue when I could see that we could give the same 360 review to a man and a woman, the woman would think she was being told to quit, and the man would think he’s doing great’ and so they’ve realised maybe we need to think about the way we give out feedback, maybe it needs to be more nuanced that it is, and so again, the men we have talked to are incredibly open to this, everybody wants to learn.

Katty Kay

That might be the woman going into that review, the same review, identical reviews – she will hear the criticism, no-one is going to get 100% review right?   So she goes into the review, she hears this one line – she comes away thinking oh my god he said ... and forgets all the good stuff, but hears that one line you need to improve on ... and then she’s thinking ‘I need to go find a new job’.

Eileen Naughton

But think of how much more powerful it is for a management group to have representative voices, men and women, because then you can talk through and understand these issues a lot sooner unclear 0:45:09  after the same review is presented to folks of different genders so it’s axiomatic.

 Mike Fenlon

Have you seen that in your career Eileen, with different management teams and what happens when there’s more diversity?

 Eileen Naughton

Yes, I see it today, running Google in the UK there was not a precedent.  I’m the first woman to do so, and there’s a different tempo that’s welcome it is very welcome by the women but it seems also it’s welcomed by the men.  

We’re seeing good output and good productivity at the same time, so there’s no slip in performance and lest anyone doubt if you’re a women in leader ship you have to deliver on the goods, so the performance is expected the manner by which a woman might lead, engage, be inclusive and collaborate differs somewhat and it can often make for a very good culture.

Katty Kay

I think that’s important Eileen for the women to realise that there’s a bottom line of quality that is expected of every employee whether a man or a woman.  What we have found that generally women bring that bottom line to the table – we tend to be very good at what we do, we’re efficient, we’re effective, but I think that some of the qualities that women have that perhaps men find harder to have – for a long time we’ve denigrated as soft skills, now we’re starting to see those as profitable skills and it’s worth us remembering that as otherwise we do start trying to act like men, and we’re old enough to remember the time when we wore shoulder pads, and terrible string ties, it was a bad look, when we try and behave like men we know from all of the work that’s been done it doesn’t work for us. 

Mike Fenlon

This goes to a very important point as well because when we think about traditional masculine styles of leading for example, the research shows us that men - bad news – tend to overestimate competence, their actual ability to deliver on something.  

So are there some things that men can learn from traditionally female approaches, or where the research has highlighted relational skills or collaboration, or certainly living in a world that puts a premium on collaboration, on innovation, on creativity.

Claire Shipman

I think that is the key isn’t it?    

Which is that all of the measure you talk about in terms of why women make a difference they’re measuring diversity of thought and management style, that’s not just somebody wearing a skirt into the office and sitting on a corporate board that makes a difference.  The reason why diversity works is you’re bringing together difference styles of managing and thinking, and what we have found especially in the last six months as we’ve been talking to so many different organisations and groups, is that another thing that has to happen is of course, the definition of what a leader looks like ultimately must change.   

Although everybody understands this, we understand the data, we know it, PwC knows it – more than most companies, but the fact is you need to have leadership at the top that says ‘you know what I’m going to value confident listening and analysis and I’m going to make that plain to everybody at the company’ and that will allow for a broader definition of leadership and more women at the top. 

Katty Kay

One thing I think I should say is we’re not suggesting to women that there’s a different type of confidence for women which is shy and retiring, you have to make your voice heard, you have to make your voice heard because you’re organisation is better off if you do.  Your employers are employing you and paying you a salary to get your voice out there, you can do it however, in a way that is comfortable to you.  I think when women try to put on their armour and their bravado and that swagger if they don’t necessarily feel it, they just don’t feel confident either.  

This is not an excuse for apologising for your opinions, for not sitting at the table, for not raising your hand at that meeting, for not going for that promotion, you have to do all of those things, recognising that you have to do them because everybody will be better off if you do.

Mark Fenlon

As we prepare to wrap up our webcast we want to end with maybe a summary of specific ideas and actions that we can all apply in our lives to build our confidence.  

I actually want to start with Chempka, who has flown here from Denver to be with us here in London.

Chempka maybe you can stand up and you can share with us one piece of advice.


I came to the US when I was about 16 years old and I started tenth grade in high school.  

To this day I still remember the first day of going to school and feeling nervous and being anxious because I didn’t know anyone and I didn’t speak a single word of English so it was the scariest day of my life.  

I was able to push myself to get out of my comfort zone and that made me more determined and more confident so I would tell people to not be afraid of taking risks and just don’t be afraid of doing new things, trying new things, that’s how you will learn, don’t be afraid of failing as well.

Eileen Naughton

I spent probably 25 years in different business related enterprises and started as a journalist and then migrated over to media and now in Google, which in some form is a media company. 

I could say that some of my success has stemmed from being willing to take on really hard problems and solve them.  Things that other shied away from, things that didn’t have a clear outcome, things that had uncertain potential. One of them at Google – for me – was YouTube.  

We bought YouTube in 2006 and sometime in mid 2007 an executive said to me here Eileen take this and figure out how to make some money on it, and it was really that informal, and it was well before YouTube became the phenomenon it is which is the world’s largest platform for the creating and sharing of video, and a platform that really can change outcomes for the world, political outcomes. 

It’s just an enormous phenomenon but at the time it was just quite uncertain on what we would do and how we would make any sense of a business enterprise. 

It was unpopular, the safest thing would’ve been to stay and to run the business I was running but taking that risk and being willing to say I don’t know exactly how we’re going to do this but we’ll figure it out, and I felt confident we would figure it out, probably set me on a completely different trajectory in the long run in my career at Google.  

So solving hard problems, being willing to sign up even when the outcome is not perfectly crystalline and then recruiting great people along the way to work on your team and believe in the value of the mission you’re on.

 Mark Fenlon

Thank you Eileen.

Katty Kay

We talked a lot about the concrete steps that you can take to grow your confidence but I wanted to leave you with one piece of research we came up with for our book, that I think demonstrates why confidence is so important for women, and particularly for young women.

This comes from a Professor called Cameron Anderson, he’s in Berkeley, California, and he has done work looking at the relative importance of competence and confidence when it comes to success, and the work he has done over the past few years pretty clearly demonstrates when it comes to success confidence matters as much as, if not more than, competence, and I think for women this is a slightly terrifying prospect.   


We are all about competence and we have a lot of it, but what this research (which was almost so depressing that we didn’t want to use it in our book) left Claire and I thinking was that this is a great lesson for women that we need to expand our definition of talent.  Women and young women in particular need to realise that confidence is part of talent and you just have to face it, have it, grow it, if you really want to get as far as you can. 

Mark Fenlon

Thank you


Claire Shipman

I think I’ll leave you with a thought I got from my daughter who is 9, and quite a rebel and full of interesting ideas and she’s helped me learn a lot about confidence actually.

 I was encouraging her about a year ago to make sure she was raising her hand in the classroom and this became a theme in our house, are you speaking up, are you saying anything, and at one point she turned to me, exasperated, and she said ‘ yes mom I’m raising my hand all the time, even when I don’t have anything to say’.


I thought that is actually what women need to do and it’s funny because we got into a back and forth with our psychologist who really helped us on the book Doctor Richard Petty, and he said is that a good idea to really raise your hand if you have nothing to say, maybe that would lead to catastrophic consequences, and I said I think what it is is for women and for girls we do have something to say we are not recognising in fact, that we tend to think we don’t – we do.  So I would say raise your hands metaphorically and challenge yourselves to do that, even when you think you don’t have anything to say.


Mike Fenlon

I’ll conclude with one action and one request, and I’ll speak to men now


I’m asking all the men who are participating too within PwC and universities, students, colleagues, clients, to join with us – let’s come together and ask ourselves are we ‘HeForShe’.  Let’s stand up and make our voices heard let’s go to ‘HeForShe’ and demonstrate our public commitment at their site but, more than that, let’s engage the women in our lives, let’s listen and let’s make our own voices heard for inclusion.


We started today with that very powerful word confidence.  And we know it has a very disproportional impact in all of our lives whether we can fulfil our own potential as students, as colleagues, as professionals, we’re hoping that today that all of you leave this webcast with at least one idea, one action that you’re going to commit yourself to, share it with others and consider how you can also build the confidence of others.  We’ve got lots more information, you can go to our site at Aspire, please do, there are tools available there, got to HeForShe, Big Think has partnered with us on this venture and we’ve got some great content at Big Think and of course we continue our support at


So on behalf of all of the PwC partners and colleagues around our global networks, my colleagues at strategy end I know they’re joining us in great numbers as well, on behalf of all of my colleagues I want to thank you for joining us, and we especially want to thank our spectacular hosts here in London, for hosting this wonderful event and we’ve had a great day together here in London.