MPW Insider is an online community where the biggest names in business and beyond answer timely career and leadership questions. Today’s answer for: How can more women leaders instill confidence in the workplace? is written by Ritu Anand, deputy head of global human resources at Tata Consultancy Services.
There is an infinite amount of studies that show young women who enter the working world are full of ambition and confidence. However, as women progress in their careers, various situations and circumstances test their confidence, which must be addressed if their potential is to be realized. This usually happens during three distinct timeframes of a women’s career.
The first test is in your 20s, fresh out of college and new to the corporate world, most women are an impressive force of ambition, passion, and confidence. They are fueled by their academic accomplishments, economic expectations, and competitive vigor. Companies that have well-rounded onboarding programs do the best job at keeping young employees optimistic about their future. The most effective programs go beyond on-the-job training to ingrain leadership and life skills.
At Tata Consultancy Services, every employee has an onboarding program, which includes pairing them with a dedicated manager, mentor, and life coach. Each of these individuals play an essential role in acclimating new employees, regardless of experience level. I also advise many of our female employees to absorb as much insight and guidance from the experienced women around them, which can range from clients, peers, managers, and even people outside the company. Additionally, I encourage young women to take advantage of social platforms to seek out and connect with business and thought leaders. This virtual source of inspiration can be remarkably enriching to a young woman’s career.
The second decade of a woman’s career, typically in their 30s, is usually the most challenging for a number of reasons. Companies set high expectations on mid-level employees to work more independently, increase productivity, and contribute to growth. On top of these pressures, women are striving for more management responsibility while trying to balance the changing demands of their personal lives. Women have more on their plate during this time frame, often feeling pulled in multiple directions, creating a confidence crisis. Companies need to recognize this time as a crossroads for many women and step up to support them. By reinvigorating mentoring, coaching and development programs, companies can help women clarify their careers goals and build a realistic path to achieve them. The resulting sense of support and achievability boosts their self-confidence and enables them to recommit to their careers.
After twenty years of working, women now approach the final stage of their career as they enter their 40s. Companies must ensure that women at this stage can not only envision their place at the top, but also have the opportunity and support to get there. Senior executives need to recognize accomplishments and create learning opportunities. Board members must reach out to connect and inspire. And women themselves must expand their leadership horizons, building networks beyond company walls. There are many ways to do this: be active in industry associations and community groups; pursue board positions; attend and speak at industry events. But the easiest and most impactful way to raise your leadership profile is through the thoughtful and relevant use of social media. Working in concert with your company to share your insights on the important issues facing your constituents helps solidify your brand, your network, and your career.