Confidence crisis holds back women in business

Women need more self-belief to fulfil their career potential


Self-doubt and a “false” belief in the proverbial glass ceiling are stopping talented women in business from climbing the career ladder and fulfilling their potential, according to Nikki King.  

Isuzu Truck UK’s Honorary Chairman told attendees at London Business School’s Women In Business (WIB) Conference that women needed more self-assurance and determination to succeed in business. “When a man gets a promotion, he will say ‘Great, when do I start?’ but when it happens to a woman, she’ll say to her boss, ‘Do you think I can do this?’” 

King dismissed the notion of a glass ceiling, insisting that women can achieve great things in business such as securing board-level roles if they believe in themselves and refuse to be bullied or intimidated by colleagues. “If you meet friction with a colleague, challenge it head-on and do it publicly,” she said. “You shouldn’t keep your head down or walk away thinking, ‘I should have said this or that.’” 

Addressing the WIB attendees, she added: “Most of the opposition I’ve had in my career was not from men but women in senior positions. As the next generation of women, you need to change that.” 

While the number of women in European boardrooms is still relatively low, gender quotas are helping redress the balance. Norway leads the way, with women accounting for 35.5 per cent of board members, according to a global index published in January 2015. Catalyst, a non-profit organisation for women in business, produced the index which ranks Finland (29.9 per cent), France (29.7 per cent), Sweden (28.8 per cent) and Belgium (23.4 per cent) in the top five behind Norway for the number of female board members. 

A mother of three, King returned to work in the 1990s when she split from her husband. She started out as an admin manager at a Ford dealership and fell in love with trucks, which saw her helping out the salesmen during busy periods. King was eventually offered a job in fleet sales and within seven years was appointed managing director. 

King then left to set up the UK arm of Japanese firm Isuzu, where she led a management buyout in 2004. Now Honorary Chairman, she is revered for reaching the top in a male-dominated industry.