Women need to back themselves more in order to boost female leadership numbers in business says a gender equality advocate.
Speaking at the NZME Women's Leadership Symposium in Auckland, chief executive of Working Mothers Connect Natasha Gallardo said female leadership was nowhere near where it needed to be.
She said one major factors in this was "imposter syndrome" where high-achieving individuals could not internalise their accomplishments and instead worried they would be exposed as frauds.
"Women disproportionately experience this more," Gallardo said.
"Women are much more likely to attribute their success to luck or chance and much less likely to display overt confidence, often for fear of being too assertive, hence a lack of confidence continues to pervade," she said.
"It's the ensuring lack of belief that leads us to not raise our hand when we should - to overcome imposter syndrome we need to do this."
Gallardo has just expanded her business from Melbourne to New Zealand.
Working Mothers Connect began when Gallardo returned to work after having her son, and realised the lack of support available for mothers returning to the workforce or wanting to change career.
The business connects a community of working mothers with businesses offering flexible and supportive employment for parents.
Gallardo said statistics from New Zealand showed work still needed to be done with just one female chief executive in the NZX top 50 companies.
"According to the Harvard Business Review, women won't often apply for a job unless they are 100 per cent confident and qualified, whereas men feel confident doing so when they only have 60 per cent of the qualifications," Gallardo said.
"If we stop striving for perfection and instead focus on going for the job or promotion anyway, then we can start to move the dial in the leadership stakes."
Gallardo said women could overcome this by being aware of their thoughts and behaviours, owning their success and taking some risks.
Despite the need for women to be more confident, Gallardo said the main issue was fundamental flaws in the system.
"What we really need is for the system to be reimagined."
"Sure as women it would be great if we were more confident but what part of our lack of confidence is due to a faulty system - a fair amount I think," Gallardo said, adding that flexibility and support in the workplace needed to be encouraged.
"We need to see change throughout the whole system for mums, dads, those without children and people at all levels from graduates to CEOs," she said.
"We need them to embrace flexibility and find a new way of working if we want females in leadership and equality to really succeed. Hopefully organisations doing this will soon become the norm rather than the exception."