The “Confidence Gap”

The last several years in the United States have seen a number of articles, books, and studies about why women remain much less prominent than men in the upper echelons of business and government.

Some put the onus on women themselves for (variously) taking time off or cutting back responsibilities at work to tend to family, lack of self-confidence, and lack of ambition.

Research has made clear, though, that our country and our businesses, which we all like to think are meritocracies, are in fact, not.

What research has found in brief:
Women in the United States have been graduating from college at a higher rate than men and often have higher skill levels.
Though women are more skilled, they are also more likely to be humble. Men tend to exhibit a confidence level that they can’t actually back up with their skill set.
Despite this, managers tend to promote confident but less-competent men over more-humble but more-competent women.
If women adopt behaviors that are more confident, even when they have the skill set to back it up, they are viewed negatively, considered pushy, bossy, etc.

While women have been blamed for not being confident or ambitious enough, the bottom line is that the system is executed in a way that favors male-prevalent behavior patterns and penalizes female-prevalent ones, while also penalizing women who adopt more stereotypically male behaviors.

We need to stop blaming women and start changing corporate practices. Make assignments and promotions on the basis of demonstrated skills, not on who talks a good game. Actively solicit ideas and opinions from everyone on the team. Organize work hours in a way that helps people to manage their other responsibilities to family, community, etc. This is not just a women’s issue. Men also need to juggle multiple commitments.

To continue in the current mode is a waste of some of the knowledge, skills, and talents that women can bring to our companies, organizations, and government.

It’s (past) time for a change.

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Author: Joanne Corey

Please come visit my eclectic blog, Top of JC's Mind. You can never be sure what you'll find!

15 thoughts on “The “Confidence Gap””

    1. Thanks, Cat! I’m sorry that the same problem occurs in Australia. It may be common in most of the more highly developed nations. In less developed countries, of course, the problems for women are much more severe, with some not even having basic rights. So much still to do.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Boy, this brought back memories of practicing law. Early on, I learned to be forceful in meetings . . . or a male colleague would repeat what I’d just said, and the others would hear him as if it were original. I also dealt with stereotypes of women being “emotional,” when the primary emotion rested with the men—except it was anger and thus validated, even if it moved everyone’s eyes off the prize. I don’t think the men ever saw the sea they were swimming in because they were fish breathing water—what biases? I hope it’s improved in the decade I’ve been a writer, working with only my own flawed self. Thanks for this post.

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  2. It’s sad but true that women are largely to blame for this. Pressure occurs in the community, in social situations away from the office. Backhanded criticism whittles away at the willpower of women who are also encouraged to engage in this aggressive behaviours. Women feel pressure to be accepted by their female peers and that is more impactful than the pressure to be respected by male colleagues. The social crippling of women creates a form of poverty. I wish I could see less competition among women, less petty interference and more peer support.

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    1. I am fortunate to have had the situation in my life to have a lot of support from other women. I grew up with sisters and attended a women’s college. I have also been involved in circles of women throughout my adult life, so I look at other women as allies, not competitors. I’m sad to hear that you have not seen this side in your experience.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks, Joanne. It is sad and frustrating. Fortunately, I have support from men colleagues and peers and it is because, using the nonaffirming language I’m “assertive, demanding and blunt.” Thank you for sharing your insight and for always offering your warm support.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m sorry to hear that you have run into these difficulties at work. We really do need to change the system so that each person’s talents, experience, and expertise are recognized and rewarded. Thank you for reading and commenting!

      Liked by 1 person

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