ICON 2022 Preview: BBC Journalist Katty Kay on the Importance of Confidence for Women and Girls

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During her 30-year career, award-winning journalist Katty Kay has reported on the biggest stories of the day from around the globe for the BBC.

She also used her skills as a reporter to travel to the frontiers of neuroscience as the co-author of four New York Times bestselling books about the importance of confidence for women and girls. With Claire Shipman, Kay wrote “Womenomics: Write Your Own Rules for Success,” “The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance — What Women Should Know,” and “The Confidence Code for Girls: Taking Risks, Messing Up, & Becoming Your Amazingly Imperfect, Totally Powerful Self.”

Kay has been a reporter and lead anchor for BCC World News from her home base in Washington, D.C. She is a regular contributor and substitute host of “Morning Joe” on MSNBC and appears frequently as a commentator on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Ahead of her Nov. 13 keynote address at ICON 2022 in Grapevine, Texas, Kay talked with PRsay about the power of confidence, the challenges of reaching younger news consumers and the importance of facts.

You’ve co-written four books on self-assurance for women and girls. When did you become passionate about this subject?

My co-author Claire Shipman and I have been writing about women in business for over a decade. And when we started studying self-confidence and the confidence gap between women and men, it became clear that we needed to help girls, too. The confidence decline begins in puberty.

Between 9 and 12, girls lose a third of their confidence and never get it back. A lot of the scientific research we did on confidence and women also applies to girls, but we needed to write for them directly. We believe that having confident women starts by raising confident girls. The two are connected.

“The Great Resignation” has been making headlines for the past year. What opportunities has the phenomenon of people quitting their jobs in large numbers provided for employees — especially women?

Women have long wanted more control over their schedules, with the flexibility to blend their home and work lives more effectively. Working remotely gave them that and, importantly, removed the “mommy track”— the stigma associated with working from home.

Women, and moms in particular, tell pollsters that work flexibility is an important criterion when choosing an employer. They will look for an employer who satisfies their family’s needs.

Surveys have shown that young adults turn to social media such as TikTok and Instagram as their primary news sources rather than newspapers and TV. What, if anything, can legacy media organizations do to engage this audience?

 We all need to do a better job at reaching young news audiences. That means rethinking the stories we cover and the way we cover them. It means getting younger voices on air, hiring younger journalists and crafting narratives and headlines that young adults relate to. It doesn’t mean dumbing down the news. Young adults are far too smart for that. I think that striving to reach younger audiences presents is an excellent opportunity for legacy news brands. It makes our journalism better.

As our society becomes increasingly divided and confrontational, news outlets are grappling with a loss of public trust and the rise of misinformation. As a veteran journalist, how do you think the media can regain the public’s trust in a time of polarization and partisanship?

The rise of misinformation and disinformation is one of the great challenges of our time. If we can’t trust our news to be accurate and impartial, how do we know which policies to support or vote for?

In this time of wild conspiracy theories, we need facts we can all rely on — not facts for some people and alternatives for others, which fuels division and is even dangerous.

As mainstream journalists working for news organizations with established editorial protocols, we need to be transparent about our processes. There is a difference between news sites and “views sites.” We can help demonstrate that. It’s why the BBC now employs misinformation reporters.

What can attendees look forward to during your keynote speech at ICON 2022 this November?

O’m excited to have the chance to decode confidence for this great audience at ICON 2022. The confidence gap between men and women is real — but so is our ability to close it. That’s why we love this subject.

Confidence is something that every one of us, immediately and independently, can choose to grow. I’ll explore what confidence is, where self-confidence in women and men comes from, and how we can all overcome our confidence hurdles. My talk at ICON 2022 will be fun and lively. Most important, you’ll come away with concrete strategies for addressing your own confidence challenges.


John Elsasser is PRSA’s publications director and editor-in-chief of its award-winning publication, Strategies & Tactics. He joined PRSA in 1994.

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