Over the past 30-some years of my career, I’ve met a great number of amazing clients and colleagues – many of whom have become close friends. Inspired by the advice and support they offered me, I have in turn spent a lot of time over the past three decades mentoring other women.
One common theme that women share with me is that there is something they want to do - a step or action they want to take - but they often have a profound fear of failure, which holds them back from taking that action.
I feel that this apparent lack of confidence has been a singular thread throughout these conversations. In fact, after reading an inspiring article in the New York Times called “The Confidence Gap”, I decided that I wanted my personal legacy to be, “Laura Hay has dedicated her life to helping develop and promote women in leadership in financial services.”
Why financial services? Besides the fact that I’ve spent my career in this space, and I’m often the only woman in the room, I think it is an industry that is sorely lacking in female leadership at the top, and at many levels.
Looking back, I have had two people in my life who helped me in my personal journey. The first was my dearly departed father who was also in the insurance industry, and became the president of a small insurance company before he was 50 years old. He always told me, “You can do or be anything you want, it is up to you.” He instilled a gift of confidence in me from an early age, something I did not appreciate at the time.
The second inspiring person was a very successful female CFO who I met when I was a new partner. She admitted to me that she had racked up more failures than successes in her own career path. This got me thinking that women need to prepare for and overcome such challenges. To do so, women should share what they’ve learned along the way to encourage and support others.
While I’ve shared my own often-hard-earned knowledge as a mentor, I also decided to make an impact on a larger scale. I began organizing ‘Confidence and Risk-taking’ workshops for female professionals, in which I talk about the challenges women face, and I draw upon a panel of successful female executives to share their advice.
After hosting more than 35 workshops to more than 7,000 women and seeing how participants reacted to the honest, real-life stories of other women - I’ve decided to create this blog. As I mentioned above, I’ve met many inspiring female leaders during my career and this blog enables me to share their stories and experiences. I’ll ask challenging questions of these talented leaders, so other women can learn from their failures and successes, and gain valuable advice, whatever stage you are at in your career. I also hope my male colleagues will follow this series, since it will be a great way to understand the challenges females face and learn how to create a more supportive environment for everyone.
As I say in my workshops, and now in this article series, “It’s time to ask good questions, and share our ideas and advice, so we overcome our fears, learn to take on new risks and rise to leadership posts in our industry. I hope you’ll join me in this conversation right here.