Heather Pownall creates a safe space for women to practice and learn from challenging life or workplace scenarios through her company, The Confidence Labs.
By Marie Muir
When Heather Pownall graduated from N.C. State University’s business school, she wanted to start a podcast. She bought the nicest microphone at the Apple store. And for the next 10 years, that silver Samson G-Track sat on a shelf collecting dust until July 2020, when Heather stopped and asked herself – why haven’t I done that yet?
The self-doubt Heather felt about starting a podcast is not foreign. She has witnessed insecurity as a source of oppression that’s held back female peers in school and at work.
“I think women have more internalized societal messages that are disempowering,” Heather says. “And that perpetuates unrealistic standards and definitions of what success is. [Women] don’t even raise their hands sometimes. My own lived experience validates what a lot of the research shows.”
But Heather knows the secret to squashing that self-doubt: action. She became a certified professional coach through the Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching, and a certified association executive and a graduate scholar of the ASAE Diversity Executive Leadership Program, which advances diversity and inclusion in the next generation of nonprofit leadership. And in 2020, Heather founded The Confidence Labs to help women build courage and confidence in their career and life. Women can learn more by listening to Heather’s monthly podcast, attending workshops, receiving individual coaching or signing up for a six-week confidence camp.
The labs offer a safe space to practice and learn from challenging life or workplace scenarios as a group. Which, according to Heather, almost always requires reframing – a strategy therapists often use to help people look at situations from a different perspective.
“In all of the group coaching environments I’ve been in, I’ve led or facilitated, women get a lot of help from coaching,” Heather says. “But they also get a lot of transformational insight and ‘aha’ moments from the other women in the group when they share their stories.”
Heather’s career in association leadership, strategy and business development continues to evolve alongside her passion for life coaching. She’s done marketing for a renewable energy startup and directed global business development for an international association for accountants. Today, Heather runs The Confidence Labs while serving as a consultant for a cybersecurity professional organization and lives near downtown with her wife, Leanora Minai, and their 7-year-old silver lab, Vinny. “If your achievements and your story and who you are can inspire one person or be validating or give a hope or normalize someone else’s experience in any way, then it’s valuable to share and to be held up,” Heather says. “If I had one wish for all women … it’s to know what success is for you and that it can change.”