Mind the Gap: Women Business Leaders Talk Confidence

Posted on May 25, 2017

The concept of confidence goes beyond getting pumped up. Hear how women leaders across Capital One are learning to be comfortable in their own skin and deal with “imposter syndrome” at work.


For women in the workplace, “confidence” is more than just something they think about before a large presentation—there is an actual gap in the way women and men view confidence. In their book, “The Confidence Code,” authors Katty Kay and Claire Shipman say that this confidence gap is “a chasm, stretching across professions, income levels, and generations.” As part of our conversation series with women across Capital One, we wanted to hear from some of our executives about how they find and hold onto confidence—one of the more challenging issues that women face in the business world.

Can you talk a bit about how having or not having confidence has played a role in decisions you’ve made in your career?

Confidence has been a double-edged sword for me in my career. Strong confidence is one tool that has emboldened me to take risks and has helped me persuade people to take a bet on me. When I believe in myself, others are more likely to believe in me—it’s a virtuous cycle. However, the reverse is also true: For me, when I’m in unchartered territory, learning something new, or sitting among people that I view as subject matter experts in something I am not, my confidence tanks. In my head, everyone else is the expert, and I don’t know anything! When my confidence is low, it can keep me from taking the risks that have helped me succeed, and thereby limit my contributions to my organization. Whenever I feel the low confidence or ‘imposter syndrome’ set in, I have to actively work to combat it. – Mili Mittal, Senior Director, Card

I do think you need confidence and a bit of swagger to move ahead, but that confidence should always be backed by results, competencies and the ability to do the work. My dad was a great source of wisdom, and he would always remind me that if I didn’t believe in myself I couldn’t ask anyone else to believe in me. – Clary Leffel, Senior Director, US Card Brand Strategy

As I reflect on decisions I’ve made in my career, there are a couple of roles I didn’t pursue because I assumed I wasn’t ‘fully qualified.’ While some jobs require specific experience, I’ve become increasingly confident that my ability to learn and problem solve are the foundation that will allow me to succeed in a wide set of roles. – Christine Hales, VP, Technology – Delivery Transformation

I’ve had two defining experiences. The first one was with a manager who recognized talents and skills in me that I didn’t see in myself. He continuously pushed me to do more, think bigger, and take on difficult challenges. I didn’t have a lot of confidence in my own abilities that early in my career. He recognized my confidence level and pushed me to think bigger about my capabilities and my future. He gave me leadership opportunities, and was there to coach me when I doubted myself. When he nominated me for the Bench leadership program at Microsoft, he opened doors for me that have led me to where I am today. The second one was when I was offered a Vice President of Technology position at Time Inc. I found myself with a manager who was not only an amazing manager, but also a sponsor and a mentor. He gave me big opportunities, and pushed me hard. When I succeeded, he added more responsibility and kept increasing my scope and scale. I think he was almost happier about my successes than I was.” – Linda Apsley, VP, Technology – Data Engineering

How have you overcome challenges with keeping your confidence high while in the workplace?

I’ve won battles with confidence, but I know it is an ongoing war. The times I’ve successfully overcome it have been times where I actively sought out feedback, received positive reinforcement and redoubled my efforts to achieve the goal I had set for myself. I also practice the art of patient persistence: keep trying at something until I am confident in my ability to do it, but be patient with myself in knowing there will be setbacks and failures along the way. – Mili

I will admit to having a few crises of confidence along the way—mostly when I started a new role or at a new company—but I would always remind myself that I was surrounded by smart people that trusted me with that role, and I couldn’t let them down or let myself down. That would usually do it for me. – Clary

Growing up, quieting the noise in my own head was key to finding my self-confidence. I was almost always encouraged by my parents and teachers, and made to feel that I could do anything. My biggest critic was me. I raised the bar for myself constantly, and worried way too much about what others thought of me. Getting more comfortable in my own skin was a long journey, and a journey I wish that I had completed at a much younger age. What I didn’t realize was that I was holding myself back. When I let all that go, I was my best me. Too many women that I talk to play these stories of perfection in their mind that chip away at their confidence. Have a goal to be imperfect! – Julie Eberfeld, SVP, Commercial Bank CIO

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Colleen Krieger, Senior Manager, Brand
Colleen Krieger is Senior Manager of Digital Brand Strategy at Capital One.

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