There has been a pervasive notion that women just need to be more self-confident to achieve success at work. A Google search for “how women can be more confident at work” yields over 200 million results. Much of it assumes that women either have confidence or they don’t. It also leads with the assumption that it’s up to the women themselves to fix what is viewed as solely an internal problem.


In February 2022, Fiducia Coaching partnered with market research firm BAMM on the study “The Confidence Con: Re-Writing the Rules on Women’s Confidence in the Workplace.” Through a survey of 500 women, the goal was to uncover if confidence was a barrier for women at work, as well as better understand the contexts and drivers of confidence. Here’s what we found:

  • 70% of the respondents, ages 22+, said they generally feel confident at work. This challenges the idea that lack of confidence at work is an always-on issue.
  • However, more than half said they experience “Shadow Moments” – times when their confidence is overshadowed or low and triggered by events such as making an error, receiving negative feedback, asking for a pay increase, or raising a concern about a coworker.
  • Shadow Moments increased for Asian American women, with seven in ten reporting to have low confidence moments at work. There was also a notable difference in confidence across levels of work experience, with those in senior roles most likely to cite self-confidence as a blocker for progression. This likely results from things like increased performance pressure, solitude, and even less support from others.
  • Importantly, the results also showed that the work environment and the actions of other individuals have an impact. The top aggravators of these Shadow Moments include lack of support, feeling burnt out, micro-management, and lack of recognition.

The Confidence Con research also demonstrates that leaders, managers, and co-workers have a significant role in cultivating confidence for women. When asked what increases their confidence at work, the respondents most often cited recognition of their efforts, feeling trusted, being listened to, and support from their bosses.

The idea that structurally things need to change when it comes to confidence is critical. While women will need to continue to build confidence from within, as they still face numerous challenges outside of their control that will require resilience, they also equally need supportive work environments that foster confidence. And it is not only good for individual people, but also good for business. The Confidence Con research showed that 88% of people believe confidence is critical in the workplace and, according to a survey by Indeed, 98% of workers said they perform better when they are confident.


Employers and individuals must create work cultures that alleviate, rather than exacerbate, day-to-day shadow moments.

By rewriting the rules on women's confidence in the professional world, we can break the assumptions at the heart of the Confidence Con research that women are singularly responsible for their confidence journeys. In doing so, we can make businesses, workplaces, and lives stronger for it.

Here are five ways you can rewrite the rules and be a confidence ally:

  • Recognize and appreciate your colleagues, in small moments as well as big ones. Take a moment to say thank you. Send a note to acknowledge a great presentation or achievement of a successful project milestone. Feeling supported can be a top driver for improving confidence. We spend a lot of time sharing feedback when things go wrong, but not when things go well.
  • Take the time to listen. When people feel seen and heard, it is a propeller for performance. According to the study The Heards and the Heard-Nots, 74% of employees report they are more effective at their job when they feel heard. Make a point of encouraging everyone to share their opinions and thoughts. One of the respondents from the Confidence Con research shared, “Moments I’ve felt the least confident at work is when I’m not heard by older male seniors in the business – e.g., raising concerns/red flags that are taken lightly, undermined or dismissed – feeling as if it’s not my place to say anything, and subsequently feeling disempowered.”
  • If you are a leader or manager, take action to get your organization aligned. Nobody believes they are a micromanager, yet it continues to rise to the top as a driver for intensifying low confidence moments. Confidence is essential to employees performing at their fullest potential. Thinking it's a negligible topic is obsolete, whereas making this a valued part of the company culture should be the norm. Monetary rewards aren’t enough. They need to be accompanied by a range of other initiatives, including allowing employees space to avoid burnout. Consider ways to provide more professional training and development for managers as well.
  • Don’t forget about those at the top. We cannot assume that with title and decision-making power comes confidence. The Confidence Con research showed that women who lack confidence at work most often are those in senior level roles. Remember to ask leaders how they are doing. People at the top can often feel siloed and need support just like everyone else.
  • Reframe ‘mistakes’ in the workplace. As a result of many barriers to advancement that women have faced through the decades, they often feel greater pressure to be perfect at work to get ahead and gain respect. This is likely the reason behind the top shadow moment when low confidence is triggered for women: making an error. If employers and colleagues alike reframe risk and failure as opportunities for growth instead of moments for disparagement – it can go a long way to allaying fears of making mistakes and thus help reduce the most commonly occurring Shadow Moment.