Skip to Main Content
News@Ivey · Communications

Are women leaders facing a crisis in confidence?

Mar 6, 2024

In celebration of International Women's Day and its theme, "Inspire Inclusion," Ivey spotlights five exceptional faculty members whose research and teaching are shaping a better, more inclusive future for women. Read on to learn insights from Kanina Blanchard on how women can gain confidence and emerge as resilient leaders and watch the video above.

When considering the journey for women aspiring to leadership roles, the pervasive image of an elevator rising to the top before encountering the symbolic glass ceiling often comes to mind. But does this metaphor genuinely encapsulate the nuanced reality of women navigating their path to leadership, or does it oversimplify the complexities involved in this journey?

Almost two decades ago, esteemed scholars Linda Lorene Carli and Alice Eagly asserted that the route to leadership isn't a seamless ascent. Instead, they likened the journey for women to a labyrinth – a complex series of known and unknown challenges demanding thoughtful navigation and strategic deliberation to tackle the evolving puzzles that lie ahead.

Fast-forward to the present, Kanina Blanchard, an Assistant Professor of Management Communications and General Management at Ivey, contends that navigating the labyrinth has grown even more formidable. Despite advancements in the journey toward inclusion since Carli and Eagly's initial insights, Blanchard asserts that individuals, particularly women and those with multiple intersecting identities, now encounter a more precarious route to assume leadership roles. The culprit? A crisis of confidence.

I don’t know how she does it!

Juggling family, personal life, and career success has always posed a challenge for professional women. And in today's volatile and complex world, marked by global threats and the lingering effects of the COVID-19 era, the leadership terrain has shifted and changed – growing more turbulent. The resulting "perfection pressure," fueled by social media and rapid technological changes, has heightened expectations on leaders and professionals, particularly women.

Blanchard says today’s leaders are not only expected to deliver on the bottom line, but also to excel in various social domains. Working closely with leaders across different stages and ages, she notes a troubling trend.

“Women, already burdened with exceeding expectations, find themselves striving to be more corporately responsible, purpose-driven, and globally inclusive – while simultaneously mastering every competency and delivering on the ROI,” she said.

Blanchard explains that this heightened demand has led to a crisis of confidence, with women grappling with imposter syndrome and feelings of unworthiness in their roles and when considering future opportunities.

Together through the labyrinth

With more than 20 years of leadership experience in international business, Blanchard is no stranger to the societal demands on women and the pressure to excel in various roles. Leaning into her background, she employs active learning and the sharing of lived experiences to equip Ivey's students with the tools to navigate the labyrinth – not just surviving but confidently succeeding. The cornerstone of her approach: collaboration.

"Learning from one another to navigate challenges and to abate negative thinking is crucial," said Blanchard.

Renowned at Ivey for her skillful application of case-method learning, Blanchard incorporates dynamic methodologies, such as situational role-playing and group discussions to immerse students in an array of real-life scenarios. Creating a safe space for open communication, Blanchard aims, not only to reassure students that they are not alone, but to instill the understanding of the collective strength and potential in collaboration.

"As educators and leaders, we must acknowledge that we can't be experts in everything, that we can’t be perfect. And, what’s more, we must share this with our students. By embracing this reality, we can help break the cycle of negativity, of self-limiting thoughts, and move forward to a place of learning, advancing, and leading," she said.