Amazing Event on The Confidence Code Hosted by HBA Mainline Montco

An amazing event on The Confidence Code – Unlocking your True Potential was hosted by HBA Mainline Montco at Pfizer’s Collegeville campus on 20 September. Pfizer’s Women’s Leadership Network sponsored the event and there was a great turnout with a packed room. The participants started the evening off by networking. Victoria Tamarkin (president, HBA Mainline Montco) kicked off the event with the vision of HBA Mainline Montco.  

Each of the panelists gave a personal account of what confidence means to them and how they have developed their confidence code. For Laurie Cooke (HBA president and CEO), confidence came from playing sports and embracing new areas and jumping in to do things while learning at the same time. Radife Kiral (vice president Prevnar vaccines, Pfizer) shared that her first confidence test was to obtain a scholarship from the UK government to study, she was inspired by what was next and while she had reasons for not doing it, it didn’t stop her from applying and learning. Shelly O’Donovan (CEO, Illuminate the Message, LLC) was intrigued by why some people moved ahead even if there was no substance and went on to get trained in body language. Denise Juliano (executive director, strategic accounts commercial strategy and innovation, Merck) was very shy as a child and developed her confidence by playing three sports and got a tennis scholarship. Mandrita Bagchi (anti-infectives business analytics and insights lead, senior manager, Pfizer) was the event moderator.  

What followed was a very engaging and interactive panel discussion amongst the panelists as well as enthusiastic participation from the audience providing tips on how to boost your confidence.

Key takeaways from the panel:

  • Women are perfectionists which prevents us from taking on certain tasks
  • Women tend to ask for permission, men tend to ask for forgiveness
  • Women get emotional and need to learn to take feedback to grow

Why does a confidence gap exist amongst genders? 
At any moment, a woman’s neurons are firing up 30 percent more, which shows how women over think everything. Girls are raised to be polite and pretty; societal factors are engrained early which expect girls to behave a certain way. Men ask, ask and ask, while women put a story around the ask. Women need to learn to get straight to the ask.


What do we need to do to minimize the pay gap?
Studies on teachers have shown that a bias exists in certain subjects such as math and when names are hidden, girls do better than boys. Women don’t ask for raises, while men ask for raises. When asking for a raise, be well prepared with facts, bring forward the data and practice asking for it. Anchor your ask on the data and don’t stress out over it. In the worst case, a counter offer will be made, and it will be more anyway.

What do you recommend to women to get your accomplishments across without sounding like bragging? 
Women need to make their point at the beginning, rather than putting the story first. If you are bragging about your accomplishment, why not? Position your accomplishment ‘Under my leadership, my team has done…….’ to bring out your personal accomplishment while showing your impact to the team. Write your ideas down and share it, it doesn’t have to be big. Enlist a friend to help you. 

There is an unconscious bias in how men and women are perceived. What do you think?
There is body language that is considered aggressive (i.e. pointing with your fingers and voice tones). Be aware of your tone and how it comes across when you are upset or angry. Men take up space by spreading out in a meeting room, women tend to use minimal space. Sit right at the table, not at the back of the room. People only remember 8 percent of what you say, say it boldly and don’t end with a question mark. Make a mental note when you see women leaders who are confident and pay attention to those behaviors.   

How can mentors help? 
Mentorship is a long-term relationship, find a senior leader who can give a different perspective. A mentor doesn’t have to be someone who knows you inside out and is someone who can help you think. Mentors can be internal or external to your company. People will help, you just have to ask.

How do you get opportunities to build confidence? 
Talk, say something in meetings, it doesn’t have to be big. Take courses to round out those skills. Additional opportunities to build confidence are public speaking, toastmaster, volunteering at HBA, Dale Carnegie workshops, etc.

Confidence blockers - Are there any work situations that drain your confidence? 
When someone makes a point already raised in a slightly different way and takes credit for it. In the Obama White House administration, women used the amplification strategy very successfully to echo what other women had said to give them credit for their ideas. Yelling managers are confidence blockers, don’t take it personally. Differentiate between constructive feedback and decide what you are going to take on and don’t overthink it. Don’t assume what the other person is thinking and make up stories for someone else. Use music to build confidence.

How do you balance staying true to yourself and authentic while projecting confidence? 
Don’t stop doing what you are doing, be your authentic self, unless you have been given feedback to do otherwise from your company or mentor. Find your own comfortable ways of being true to yourself. Pay attention in meetings and don’t get distracted with the voice inside your head, focus on the here and now. 

How do you get rid of your internal self-talk? 
Meditate. Try the five second rule, count down to zero and just do it! Use humor, look up jokes online before going into meetings. 

What advice can you give about building confidence for folks who are just starting out in their career?
Meet as many people as you can in your organization. Joining the internal women’s networks and other internal groups are an amazing way to meet people. Set small goals for yourself and give yourself a chance. The first job is the best, you can get away with asking the most basic of questions, enjoy it.

The event ended with a lot of great takeaways and nuggets of wisdom shared with everyone.