Editor’s note: International Women’s Day (IWD2024) theme for 2024 is Inspire Inclusion. We asked our leaders to present their personal views and share stories of how their experiences support that theme.

As International Women’s Day approaches, I reflect on the pivotal moments and the remarkable women who have shaped my professional journey.

One memory stands out vividly, from the early days of my career when I embarked on a new chapter in New Zealand after relocating from Australia. At the outset of my HR career, I stepped into uncharted territory, grappling with uncertainties about my skills in a new country.

I was entrusted with a challenging HR role at a prominent public hospital under the guidance of two formidable female HR managers. Their seasoned expertise and unwavering standards set a high bar for performance, stirring my admiration and trepidation. Yet, amidst the pressures and uncertainties, they extended their mentorship and unwavering support, becoming beacons of inspiration during my formative years in the field.

Their candid vulnerability, particularly by my direct manager, struck me profoundly. Despite her seasoned professionalism, she openly shared her moments of self-doubt, revealing the inner struggles that mirrored my own. In those moments of shared vulnerability, I gleaned invaluable lessons on resilience and self-assurance. She advised me that I needed to step into areas of discomfort, to “feel the fear and do it anyway,” emphasizing the transformative power of positive self-talk and the courage to confront uncertainty head-on.

In her vulnerability, I found strength. Through her example, I learned that confidence is not innate but a skill honed through perseverance and resilience. It was a revelation that reshaped my understanding of self-assurance, underscoring the profound truth that courage is not the absence of fear but the willingness to embrace it, to push beyond its confines, and to emerge stronger on the other side.

Indeed, I realized confidence is a journey marked by moments of doubt, setbacks, and triumphs. It is a journey that demands courage, vulnerability, and unwavering determination. As I navigated the challenges of my role, I discovered that true empowerment lies not in the absence of uncertainty but in the relentless pursuit of growth, the commitment to push beyond the boundaries of comfort, and the courage to confront the unknown with steadfast resolve.

Gender has been found to play a role in confidence. A study done at Cornell University by David Dunning and the Washington State University psychologist Joyce Ehrlinger found that women tend to underestimate both their abilities and performance – a phenomenon not observed in men in the study, who were found to overestimate both.

In hindsight, I am profoundly grateful for the women who have illuminated my path with their wisdom, resilience, and unwavering support. Their indelible impact continues to inspire me, shaping my professional trajectory and understanding of leadership, resilience, and the transformative power of inclusion.

As we celebrate International Women’s Day, let’s honor the countless women who have paved the way, shattered barriers, and inspired change.

Let’s reflect on those who have inspired courage and confidence.