05/29/2017 02:56 EDT | Updated 05/29/2017 02:56 EDT

Why Women Need To Crack The Comfort Zone

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ban talking in office

Recently, I stood in front of about 200 people at an annual general meeting to deliver a speech on why I should be chosen to be on their Board of Directors. Now, this might not seem like a big deal; after all, as the head of the Canadian arm of Edelman - the world's leading communications marketing firm - speaking engagements should be second nature to me. But I'm an introvert, and whenever I need to give presentations to large groups of people or appear on television, I really need to rally myself.

But I do rally myself. I've made a personal commitment that I will not shy away from opportunities that put me in the spotlight. That's because I know that to advance my personal career goals and the business objectives of my company, I need to continuously push myself outside my comfort zone.

And quite frankly, introvert or not, getting outside of that comfort zone is something that more women need to do. In fact, many studies, including The Atlantic's Confidence Gap, show that women are decidedly less self-assured than men. This lack of confidence has major repercussions for seeing more women in leadership positions, on boards, and in the media.

I've spoken about this issue many times and in fact a few years ago, I hosted a panel at the Rotman School of Management on Closing the Confidence Gap for Women in the Media. It really brought to light some of the problems that cascade when women don't feel confident to speak up. In fact, data from Informed Opinions -- founder Shari Graydon participated in the panel -- shows that women account for just 30 per cent of experts on national talk shows, and men author 90 per cent of hard news commentary in newspapers.

While there are a many reasons for this, one of the major ones that stood out was that women often feel that "they're not the right person."  They're passing on opportunities that their male counterparts accept without hesitation.

While I certainly don't claim to have all the answers, here are some thoughts on how to shake up your comfort zone and close the confidence gap:

  • Define and cultivate your personal brand: Know your strengths and weaknesses. If you know what you want to be known and stand for, you'll be more inclined to push yourself to accept opportunities that come your way.
  • Have a plan - and hold yourself accountable: Where do you want to be next year? Five years from now? What does that mean in practical terms? And more importantly, why are those goals important to you? Forget second-guessing yourself: when you're figuring out what you want, make sure it includes taking risks.
  • Get outside your comfort zone: Commit to doing one thing every day that makes you scared. By doing so, you'll become more confident in "putting yourself out there" and taking risks.

Ultimately, I didn't get a spot on that board. But even though I was unsuccessful, the feedback I received gave me the confidence to know that what I presented did resonate - in fact, I've already been approached, as result of taking a shot at it, for additional opportunities that I never would have received had I not stepped outside my comfort zone.

By Lisa Kimmel, President and CEO of Edelman Canada

Lisa Kimmel is President and CEO of Edelman Canada. She is on the steering committee for Edelman's Global Women's Executive Network (GWEN) and is a Global Advisor for G(irls)20, one of Edelman's global pro bono charities.

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