Breaking the bias: Building workplace confidence

For International Women’s Day earlier in the year, our Careers and Employability Service hosted a ‘Breaking the Bias’ event centred around building confidence in the workplace, designed to empower, build confidence and provide practical tools to utilise now and in the future.


The event featured a Q&A panel with successful women in the workplace, followed by workshops aimed at increasing resilience and boosting confidence in the workplace. It finished with a fantastic #IamRemarkable workshop - a Google initiative empowering women and other underrepresented groups to celebrate their achievements in the workplace and beyond. Here, three of the contributors have written an article each with their own confidence-building advice!

Rochelle Livingstone (Psychology, 2013) - Embrace your 'remarkable'

Rochelle has over eight years of experience in learning and development. Over the last two years, Rochelle has been a consultant, career coach, and a facilitator for development programmes for underserved communities at organisations like Microsoft, Google, HSBC and TikTok.

When you see the word ‘remarkable’ or ‘brilliant’, what comes to mind? You may think of something award-winning, spectacular, or heroic. But let’s bring it back down to earth a bit. I want you to think of you and your achievements (bear with me!). Personal, professional, emotional…. Think of something you’ve achieved and are proud of. How easy do you think you’d find it to talk about?

Rochelle Livingstone

Frequently asked questions

A lot of us find it hard to openly share our achievements. Whether we think they’re not worth sharing, that they are minor in comparison to the achievements of others, or that we’ll be judged as vain or self-inflated… it’s common, particularly for women and underrepresented groups, to feel this way. So if you felt like it might be a bit “cringe” to share what you’re proud of achieving, you’re not alone.

#IamRemarkable is a Google initiative empowering women and underrepresented groups to speak openly about their accomplishments in the workplace and beyond. Here’s how I got involved:

My friend (who I met at Notts!) invited me to #IamRemarkable in 2020 while I was going through a really tough period at work. My confidence was on the floor; I felt undervalued and I didn't believe in my skills. I had trouble recognising that I’d achieved anything, never mind being able to share those achievements! #IamRemarkable changed all of that for me, so I decided to become a facilitator to help others recognise what makes them remarkable too. And it was (im)perfect timing, as I began leading people through the workshops as the pandemic started.

In the workshop you develop your confidence and skills to self-promote and share your achievements. Self-promotion gets a lot of bad press - personally, professionally and culturally. But you can cultivate a way to share your achievements (not just in interviews!) without being cocky or too forward.

So take a moment to think about one of your achievements in the last week - big or small. Think about all the skills you used to make that achievement happen (there are a lot, right?!). Finally, take the step to share what makes you proud of your achievement with someone, and encourage them to share too.

Doing this consistently will help you to paint a better picture of what makes you remarkable. Go ahead and feel proud of what you’ve achieved!

For more support and tips, join a free workshop here:

Wendy Furness (MBA, 2017) - Resilience

Ingenuity Lab Entrepreneur in Residence.

Think about someone that you admire. What have they done? What is it about them and what qualities do they have? Often resilience and their ability to overcome adversity will be part of what you see in them.

Resilience in a business context can be considered to be the ability to succeed personally and professionally in a fast moving and continuously changing environment. Resilience is needed both in a personal and professional capacity as challenging things will inevitably happen to both you, and those around you.


Frequently asked questions

Resilience is not static and there are things you can do and work on to improve yours. Reivich and Shatte (2002) identified seven skills associated with resilience:

  • Emotional Awareness
  • Impulse Control
  • Optimism
  • Causal Analysis
  • Empathy
  • Self-efficacy
  • Reaching Out

Nobody is going to be brilliant at all of them however it can be worth a sense check to see where you think you could score yourself on each 1-5. That will help you to understand areas that you may like to work on over time to optimise your resilience.

There are many things that we can do to help ourselves develop resilience. Examples of these include:

  • Developing a sense of purpose. I like the Japanese concept of Ikigai, which roughly translates as ‘the happiness of always being busy’. Whilst there is debate about this interpretation there is something very powerful about the intersectionality of passion mission, profession and vocation. It’s worth thinking about your short medium- and long-term goals in life and how you go about achieving them.
  • Positive Mental attitude. We read all the time about documenting 3 good things in a day and writing them down. There is science behind this and our brain, even as adults, are neuroplastic and proactive positivity can help to rewire wire our brains. Have a look at Dr Martin Seligman’s work on this.
  • Connecting with others. Our relationships in life are really important for the both the good and bad times. They will help us to be more adaptable, broaden our horizons and help with confidence. As with anything in life they need work so make sure you reach out to your network on a regular basis and maintain them as well as develop new ones.
  • Taking control and choosing your responses. There will always be many important events and issues that you would like to be part of or change however only some of those are within your control. Focus your time and energy on the things that are important and that you are able to influence rather on that that you don’t have control of. If you have a negative experience or interaction sometimes it can help to reframe the language you use about it when thinking about it. It is often important if you want to make a point about something that affects you strongly that you chose your wording carefully and try not to send impulsive responses. Think of email and save to draft. If it’s still exactly how you feel then send it the next day however after sleeping on it you may wish to reword things. This can often get a more constructive response and stop a spiral of negativity.
  • And finally, perhaps most important of all make the time to look after yourself. Your resilience will improve when you allow yourself to do this. Think about what you eat and drink and allow yourself time to sleep properly, get fresh air, exercise and practice mindfulness if that is helpful to you.

Our resilience will vary over our life time however it important to understand what can help build it so that we have the tools when we need them. Take some time to read around the subject of resilience – your future self will thank you for investing that time wisely early on.

Claire Mann (Education, 2013) - Communicating using your voice as a woman

Ingenuity Programme’s 2021 Impact Entrepreneur of the Year.

For world menopause day I was invited to speak to female students at the university in my role as a woman running a business dedicated to empowering other women. I was invited to talk about things I have learned about communicating as a woman in my many roles in life from being an entrepreneur, researcher and teacher to being also a mum and a manager.

I took this opportunity to reflect on three key strategies I think most women can useful apply to their everyday life to improve their communication.

Claire Mann

Frequently asked questions

  1. Introducing yourself

    We are all out of practice at this, because of the pandemic. But some of us aren’t very good at it anyway because of confidence. First impressions matter! Whether you work alone most of the time, or with colleagues, or in a customer facing role you need to be able to confidently introduce yourself. A simple, confident ‘Hello, my name is’ is all it takes. Verbally be clear, concise and confident. Non-verbally maintain eye contact and smile. Practice – in the mirror, see how you seem to someone else, and how much better you look when you smile!

    Read more: A brave and smart nurse turned cancer patient named Kate Granger started a campaign for health professionals to introduce themselves to patients. We teach this from day one to clinical staff, but sometimes forget it’s a skill everyone needs.

    @GrangerKate #hellomynameis

  2. Sorry, not sorry!

    How many times do you find yourself speaking apologetically, for something that isn’t your fault? Some of us are in the habit of apologising for everything. Of course, there are some things that you should apologise for – if you make a mistake that was avoidable and impacts someone else then you take responsibility and apologise. But there are many more things that you don’t need to be in the habit of saying sorry for.


    - For mistakes which are learning.
    - For doing your job.
    - For asking for help.
    - For not feeling your best.
    - For not having a good day.
    - For long emails (I do this all the time, write shorter emails if it is a problem, if it’s not a problem don’t apologise for it).

    ‘My apologies’ ….. Is a position of deference necessary in some situations but not a good habit to get into a great habit to get out of!

  3. Saying No

    Sometimes we can find ourselves in situations where we want to say NO but for some reason we find it difficult – often because we don’t want to offend or upset others. There are some simple strategies you can learn and use to frame your NO positively.

    Scenario: You already have enough work to do, someone is off and their big report is due at the same time as yours. Your boss approaches you and says ‘You are all over this project, can you do their report?’

    You want to say NO. But feel like you can’t say NO. There are alternatives:

    1. Positive response with a BUT (+BUT)

    I can do that BUT it means I can’t do x so… could you help with more resource to get x done too / perhaps you could pick up x if I pick up y?

    2. Negative BUT followed by positive (-BUT+)

    I can’t do that BUT I can make sure my report is complete / find someone else to help who knows the work / complete it in a few days if there is push back on the deadline.

    3. Negative plus explanation BUT followed by alternative positive (-xBUT+x)

    I can’t do that because I have my work to complete BUT I can find someone else to help who knows the work / complete it in a few days if there is push back on the deadline.

These three simple strategies are steps which can be useful to all women from students and new graduates through to business leaders and professors. I hope you find them useful.

If you’d like to learn more about me and my business, look me up on Linkedin: @DrClaireMann or visit the website