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Midlife Confidence: Be the Mirror for Other Women!

Building Confidence, together

In the midst of career transition (returning to work or pivoting), many women doubt their relevance and abilities. The gap between women’s and men’s confidence levels in the workplace is real. A Cornell study demonstrates that men overestimate their abilities and performance and women underestimate both when, in fact, actual performance does not differ at all.

Findings from a Hewlett Packard report demonstrate that men are not exempt from doubting themselves—they just don’t let their doubts stop them as often as women do. The report found that men apply for a job or promotion when they meet 60% of qualifications, but women only apply if they meet 100%. As women, what holds us back is not our competence, but rather our decision not to take a risk and try. The good news is that this gap reverses when women are in their 40s(!) - at a time when many are exploring career transitions. There are many ways women can build each other up and fortify their own confidence in the process.

When women support each other, their individual voices become stronger. We love the Shine Theory: when you help another woman rise, we all shine. For example, if you see a friend or colleague doing a great job, give them credit. Tell co-workers, their boss or others in their network. Too often, women underestimate the value they offer and may not feel confident mentoring other women because they doubt their own merit. At Evolve, we see confidence not as an inherent quality but rather a skill that can be developed and built up like a muscle over time.

Be the Mirror for Other Women

An important and overlooked aspect of boosting women’s confidence is having an understanding of what they bring to the table— and women can play this critical role for each other. As Harvard Business Review research demonstrates, when women underestimate how others view their contributions, they may unintentionally hold themselves back. For example, if a woman believes others don’t value her, she may be more cautious about applying for a job, putting herself forward for a promotion, asking for a raise, or starting her own venture. The research urges that women need to gain a more accurate picture of their contributions through the eyes of others in order to thrive in their careers.

It’s vital for women who are exploring a career transition to understand what others see as their core “value ads” -- their defining strengths, talents, skills, and contributions. Accomplishing this requires some level of comfort with being able to ask for help - to ask other women to mirror back your own worth.

At Evolve we model the skills we hope women will carry out into the world in all our learning experiences. Below we share what we see in each other as Evolve Co-Founders. By reflecting back on each other’s strengths, we see ourselves in a different light - through the eyes of each other. This builds confidence like nothing else can!

What Judy Schoenberg Sees in Linda Lautenberg: Tips from a Career Returner

  • She’s a joiner. Linda always raises her hand to say “yes!”.

  • She checks her inner voice: I’m only 50! is very different than saying “I can’t believe I’m 50?” Linda exudes positivity and optimism.

  • Linda is strategic. She suggests taking on volunteer leadership roles to develop new skills before you have a chance to doubt yourself.

  • Your clothes matter. Linda knows from experience that an updated wardrobe, accessories and hair are huge confidence builders.

  • Learn new skills. Linda immerses herself in the work tech of today. She loves nothing better than to “figure it out”.

What Linda Lautenberg Sees in Judy Schoenberg: Tips from a Career Pivoter

  • Judy knows the benefit of investing time into gaining clarity: thinking about what you love to do, what you’re good at, and when or why others ask you for advice or support.

  • Start telling everyone what you’re thinking about as a next step even before you know what you’re going to do. Judy was open about wanting to work for the start-up she was at last year and it worked!

  • Reconnect with your graduate school alumni groups and former colleagues. Judy successfully rebuilt her network after fifteen years at one organization.

  • Your role model doesn’t have to be older than you! Judy found inspiration learning from a young woman designer when building Evolve’s website.

  • It’s all about your next professional move. Judy’s pivot took three different iterations before she landed as co-founder of Evolve. Career reinvention doesn’t happen overnight.

Be the mirror for other women. Give that compliment, tell her what you love about her, share your perspective about her skills and tell the world what she has to offer! You will both shine brighter.


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