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The Power of Self Efficacy for Women in Business


Are you familiar with the term “self-efficacy?” Self-efficacy is more than just confidence or self-esteem but refers to your belief to be successful. It is defined as follows:

Selfefficacy reflects confidence in the ability to exert control over one’s own motivation, behavior, and social environment.

Positive Psychology dives deep into the description, associations, and interdependence of self-esteem, confidence, and self-worth, within this article, What is Self Efficacy Theory in Psychology? that states: “Those with a high level of self-efficacy are not only more likely to succeed, but they are also more likely to bounce back and recover from failure.”

When a woman in technology — or frankly in any industry — has self-efficacy it can help motivate her in through situations where her confidence might be undermined by the corporate culture or individual management styles and even help her bounce back from tough projects, managers or situations.


Feeling Valued

The number of women in technology leaving the field mid-career is astronomical; a phenomenon that company leaders are just beginning to come aware. When interviewed as to their motivation for leaving the most common reason is the belief that they are not valued, do not feel like they can be successful or in some other way feel left out of the company culture.

However, when looking deeper into the women leaders who persevere, we find a trend towards self-efficacy. Women who don’t solely rely on the support or encouragement from those around them to feel successful but rather are capable of digging deeper and believing in their own ability to succeed.

Self-Efficacy: A Trait That Can Be Taught

The good news is that, although some are born with self-efficacy, it is a trait that can be nurtured and taught.

Psychology contributor Psychology Expert explores self-efficacy in her article: Self Efficacy: What is Self Efficacy? She shares that it’s most often developed at a young age, however, learning the behavior does not stop once you reach adulthood. Kendra shares information gathered from psychologist Albert Bandura. According to Bandura, there are four major sources of self-efficacy.

1. Mastery Experiences

“The most effective way of developing a strong sense of efficacy is through mastery experiences,” Bandura explained. Performing a task successfully strengthens our sense of self-efficacy. However, failing to adequately deal with a task or challenge can undermine and weaken self-efficacy.

2. Social Modeling

Witnessing other people successfully completing a task is another important source of self-efficacy. According to Bandura, “Seeing people similar to oneself succeed by sustained effort raises observers’ beliefs that they too possess the capabilities (to) master comparable activities to succeed.”

3. Social Persuasion

Bandura also asserted that people could be persuaded to believe that they have the skills and capabilities to succeed. Consider a time when someone said something positive and encouraging that helped you achieve a goal. Getting verbal encouragement from others helps people overcome self-doubt and instead focus on giving their best effort to the task at hand.

4. Psychological Responses

Our own responses and emotional reactions to situations also play an important role in self-efficacy. Moods, emotional states, physical reactions, and stress levels can all impact how a person feels about their personal abilities in a particular situation. A person who becomes extremely nervous before speaking in public may develop a weak sense of self-efficacy in these situations.

Albert Bandura is recognized as the Father of self-efficacy and is quoted and referred to in a number of articles such as 4 Ways to Develop Self Efficacy Beliefs and The Sway of Self Efficacy

Each article is written by a different author and published on a variety of sites but all site Bandura’s research and each also offer the good news that self-efficacy can be taught.

They all also recognize that reality offers those days when we question our abilities:

Accept Self-Doubt…but Put it in its Place Managing your self-doubt is just one more way to keep “I think I can’t” thoughts from derailing your success. When self-defeating thoughts bubble up, accept them as part of the process and move on. These types of thoughts don’t necessarily reflect your true capabilities. The key is to not let them stop you from moving forward.

With this is it also important to include how motivation and self-efficacy are intertwined as also highlighted in Positive Psychology article, What is Self Efficacy Theory in Psychology?

“Similarly, although self-efficacy and motivation are deeply entwined, they are also two separate constructs. Self-efficacy is based on an individual’s belief in their own capacity to achieve, while motivation is based on the individual’s desire to achieve. Those with high self-efficacy often have high motivation and vice versa, but it is not a foregone conclusion.”

UPDATE: Get Comfortable with Not Being Comfortable

I was recently contacted by Rebecca Temsen, who writes the blog Self Development Secrets.

Belief isn’t a natural gift, Rebecca Temsen

She shared the fact that she also wrote on this topic in her article Believe in Yourself. She offers a number of great points, but one that really resonated was the fact that in order to get where we want to be, we are going to have to get uncomfortable.

Part of believing yourself begins with accepting discomfort. We all live with opposing powers aimed at the things we pursue. The trick with believing in yourself is in knowing that opposition doesn’t necessarily go away. What goes away is your attitude about it. Some discover that they eventually develop a comfort zone in the opposition they live with.

It’s all a matter of what’s in your head. Your thoughts have power. Your focus will alter how your body perceives the world. Focusing on negatives will start to alter your biology. This is where anxiety comes from.

Imagine how long you’ve been harboring this if you haven’t caught your own thoughts in the act. It all works on a principle of accumulation. You won’t change your mindset overnight, but one night of focus on the right things changes the motion. Positive thoughts will accumulate to dominate the way you think eventually.

The point is that although having role models, mentors and fans are an excellent way of developing confidence and a belief that you can be successful even in a world dominated by men; when the going gets really tough you have to dig down deep and find your own inner strength and motivation to succeed.

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Remind Yourself of Past Successes

Past performance is an indicator of future success.  Think back on the hurdles you have overcome in the past. This is especially important for women in technology who have often been the only female in the class, on projects, and in the workplace for most of their career. You have overcome and you will succeed again.

In The First 90 Days: Critical Success Strategies for New Leaders at All Levels, Michael Watkins writes about how to build your foundation for self-efficacy. He starts with 3 Pillars:

How can you create virtuous cycles that build momentum? How do you avoid vicious cycles that sap your strength? You build a foundation for self-efficacy. Your build your foundation with three pillars.

  • Adopting Success Strategies.
  • Enforcing Personal Disciplines.
  • Building Your Support System.

One More Thing: Forgive Yourself

There is one more step on the journey to self-efficacy and that involves forgiveness or self-compassion. In the article, The Secret to Improving Self Confidence, the author Eric Barker starts with these startling words: “stop lying to yourself that you are so awesome.” While shocking – he does have a point. We have all had our valleys in life, hopefully, errors that we have learned from. But Barker’s perspective is that we need to face our imperfections and offer a little compassion.

… Self-compassion was clearly associated with steadier and more constant feelings of self-worth than self-esteem. We also found that self-compassion was less likely than self-esteem to be contingent on particular outcomes like social approval, competing successfully, or feeling attractive. When our sense of self-worth stems from being a human being intrinsically worthy of respect—rather than being contingent on obtaining certain ideals—our sense of self-worth is much less easily shaken.

No matter how you get there – when you look in the mirror, focus on the positives rather than the negatives. Remember your successes and have confidence that you will again be successful in the future.

Learn More About Self Confidence & Self Efficacy: