Modern day folklore expounds the view that, on the whole, men have more self-assurance, more gumption and more confidence than women.
Authors of The Confidence Code, Katty Kay and Claire Shipman, agree. Their book, published in 2014, is based on dozens of interviews, scientific research and even genetic testing, with confronting results about how women value themselves in the workplace.
Kay and Shipman found that when a professional endeavour goes wrong, women are more likely to blame themselves. Not only this, but when something goes right in the workplace women are more likely to credit circumstance or supportive staff for the outcome. It may or may not surprise you to know that men, in general, do the exact opposite of this.
Women are also more likely to be perfectionists. In this respect they hold themselves back from putting ideas forward, applying for a new job or asking for a raise until they are certain of the outcome. In general women hold back from applying for jobs unless they meet 100% of the criteria, whereas men on the other hand, put themselves forward when they meet only 50% of the required skill base. Women are also only a quarter as likely as men to negotiate a pay rise and, to boot, they are likely to ask for 30% less.
Yes, the workforce confidence gap is real and as a girls’ education provider it is concerning. Research has proven time and again that girls are more likely to achieve academically than boys, yet when it comes to the place this matters most – the office – girls tend to sell themselves short and as a result limit both their careers and their pay packets.
Perhaps this is not overly surprising when research also shows that confidence is not always borne of competence. In fact confidence can often be more crucial to success than the ability to perform a job well. And when it comes to confidence men tend to have more than women.
A recent study by the American Psychological Association surveyed over 985,000 men and women from 48 countries as diverse as Bolivia and Sweden and found that in every geographical location, men had more confidence than women.
Cameron Anderson, a psychologist at Berkeley, says, “When people are confident, when they think they are good at something, regardless of how good they actually are, they display a lot of confident nonverbal and verbal behaviours. Whether they are good or not is kind of irrelevant.”
To prove his point, among Anderson’s students at Berkley, those who displayed more confidence than competence were admired by the rest of the group and awarded a high social status.
So it seems that ability is not as highly valued as we might think. It is the ability to sell yourself that counts most in the workplace and the confidence to do so is something we need to instil in our daughters at every opportunity.
Jessica Bennett, Time, 22 April 2014. It’s Not You, It’s Science: How Perfectionism Holds Women Back.
Katty Kay and Claire Shipman , The Atlantic, May 2014. The Confidence Gap.
Susannah Weiss, Bustle, January 2012. The Gender Confidence Gap Is Real, But It’s Greater In Developed Countries, Says New Study.