International Women’s Day: Q&A with Shabana Cooke

Brewer Morris International Women's Day

Brewer Morris is proud to be supporting International Women's Day 2019. International Women’s Day celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. Whilst we all know that gender parity within the workplace has improved over the past decades, we all also know that there is still a long way to go.

We would like to join the discussion and be part of International Women's Day 2019 #BalanceforBetter campaign on the 8th March by interviewing inspiring women we work with and, in particular, understanding the role confidence has played in their career.

We interviewed Shabana Cooke, Executive Manager – Financial Services, Commonwealth Bank. Her opinions are her own and not the views of her employer.

How do you define confidence, particularly in the workplace?

Confidence to me is all about striving for success through competence and a positive attitude

How do you think the confidence gap affects women?

Particularly for women working in male dominated sectors such as IT, I feel it limits the ability for woman to progress in their careers through missed opportunities, leading to compromised growth in their development

Do you think women’s workplace confidence has improved over the past few decades? Please explain why.

The increased focus on women in leadership has significantly increased the focus and importance of diversity in the workplace. Leveraging this success, woman have increased self-esteem, drive and passion for success as well as being a lot more resilient to adversity

How important have confidence and self-belief been in achieving your career goals? Please explain why.

My self-belief and confidence were boosted through the right mentoring and support from senior leaders, particularly in the last 10 years. This support led to well-appreciated opportunities for both my career and building my confidence on a personal level. It provided me with a platform that allowed me to feel I could go beyond my boundaries and achieve success in areas I was unfamiliar with.

How can confidence-building be built into career development strategies?

I am very much a visual person and benefit most from worked examples and situations. Therefore, for me, getting involved in working groups outside of my domain area, being faced with new challenges and networking are great examples of ways to develop confidence.

What can be done to ensure a woman being assertive in the workplace doesn’t negatively impact on colleagues’ perceptions of her?

We need to continue to socialise the negative impacts of unconscious bias and provide training on how to overcome these perceptions. This would not only benefit this particular example of assertive women but allows for a greater appreciation for both men and women, leading to an energised, productive and positive workplace.