Self-confidence, mindset and road plan

08 2019 March
Camellia Ilie-Cardoza

I recently had a very interesting meeting about values, priorities, personal and professional life, with a group of students from our full-time MBA.

A question that they asked me determined me to write this article, because I hope that it can serve many women (and men) who are reading it.

The question was: "What barriers await us women when we go out to the labor market?". My response - a bit provocative, seeking to spark a good debate, as we teachers at INCAE like - was: "None!".

In a world where most studies talk about barriers and gaps, I encouraged them to start thinking differently by rephrasing the question: "What opportunities await women in the world of work and how can they prepare to face them successfully?".

Unconscious biases, barriers, and problems exist, of course, but focusing our efforts solely on overcoming them wears out our brains and drains them of energy and capacity that we could use to open up opportunities. Also, you are checking that raising unconscious biases to the level of consciousness does not solve a problem. There must be many more strategies, very deep and complex, for stable and lasting change to take place.

My recommendations for women seeking to achieve leadership levels in purposeful and relevant jobs are as follows:

The mindset

It all starts with the mindset and energy focus on finding opportunities, visualizing alternatives or defining plans. Curiosity and the search for new paths are characteristics that ensure a positive starting point.


In their book The Code of Trust, journalists Kathy Kay and Claire Shipman clearly identify that, to a large extent, the barrier to opening up new opportunities is women themselves. Developing a greater degree of self-confidence is the fundamental basis for the construction of any personal development plan.

An action plan and managerial competencies

The study that we have recently carried out at INCAE, on the thinking styles of more than 1.500 men and women in Latin America, showed us that women are strengthening their competencies in the areas of strategy execution and relationship development. These competencies are more related to middle management. In order to gain access to the top management of an organization, on the other hand, the skills required are strategic vision, risk taking, analytical skills, innovation and creativity, as well as the ability to inspire other people.

Focusing education and permanent updating on the development of these competencies opens many more opportunities for the professional growth of an executive woman towards leadership positions.

Finally, Another important aspect is the use of technology. A recent study by Telefónica on this subject indicates that, on average, women in Latin America use technologies to a lesser degree than men. With the disruptions introduced by the fourth industrial revolution, women must increase their capacities and use of new technologies.

All these aspects will improve competitive advantages and barriers will be reduced, opening new horizons and opportunities for women.

We commemorate Women's Day and congratulate all those who support women leaders, because they are helping to generate more prosperous families, as well as more competitive organizations and countries!

Article published in the Costa Rican newspaper The Republic. 

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