Turn “Can I?” into “I can!”

When I think back to the earlier stages of my career, it is with great pride that I see the rise in the number of women holding middle- and senior-management positions.

Although gender equality still has a way to go—especially in the more traditionally male-dominated sectors—we are making progress. This is driven by better access to education, improved childcare support, and an increased awareness among employers of the importance of offering gender-equal opportunities. What’s more, as social and cultural changes continue to advance equality at home, women are finding themselves with the time and support required to pursue their professional ambitions.

Over the years at ADM, I have come across many amazing women with true talents, acting as dedicated and passionate leaders, restless executors, and powerful team builders. Despite this, however, there is one question that women continually ask themselves when taking on new responsibilities: “Can I do it?”

Female colleagues, who in many cases were more than capable or even overqualified to take on the new challenge, have asked me this question. What is driving this lack of confidence? Why do we doubt our capabilities? And more important, what can we do to overcome these insecurities? This hesitation and uncertainty is a key barrier we need to overcome if we want to succeed alongside our male counterparts.

While awareness about the importance of gender equality can take us a long way, our ability to dare and take on more responsibility is something we need to find in ourselves. We need to work at it and help each other, whether by mentoring, coaching, or simply telling a colleague how well she does and how much more she is capable of.

We must help ourselves and others understand that being successful does not mean making no mistakes or always over-performing. Instead, we must learn from the mistakes we make and have faith in ourselves, even if sometimes we deliver something that’s good enough, rather than perfect.

Working together to build our confidence is the only way that we can truly begin to help women take the next steps in their careers, achieve gender balance across senior positions, and turn “Can I?” into “I can!”