Female Professionals and the Confidence Gap


mythConfidence can take you far.  But what if confidence is the one thing you’re lacking?

In a recent Entrepreneur.com article entitled “Is There a Gender Gap in Confidence?” author Lisa Evans claims that perhaps confidence separates women from men in corporate America.  According to Kay and Shipman’s book, The Confidence Code: The Art and Science of Self-Assurance, lack of confidence may be preventing women from achieving their full potential in the workplace.

Evans explains, “Through interviews with other high-ranking women, Kay and Shipman found chalking success up to dumb luck rather than a result of hard work and talent was incredibly common.  Yet men in powerful positions didn’t appear to have confidence issues at all.”

So what’s holding women back?  Evans shares three common issues that widen the confidence gap:

1. Women are more likely to be perfectionists.  A Hewlett-Packard study found that women applied for promotions only if they met 100% of the requirements while men applied if they met 60%.  Another study at Columbia demonstrated that men overestimate their abilities by 30% while women consistently underestimate their abilities. As author Kay suggests, these perfectionist tendencies are holding women back.

2. Women are more prone to ruminate, over-think and analyze.  We all know that over analysis can lead to paralysis, as least as far as career advancement is concerned.  Women have the tendency to over think the things they do and say, and when the mind is occupied with critical thoughts, there’s no room for innovative and inspiring ones.

3. Women let their nerves prevent them from acting.  Evans says, “Kay and Shipman define confidence as ‘the thing that propels us to take action.’  Confidence is what causes us to raise our hand in a meeting, to stand up to a colleague we disagree with, to introduce ourselves to a stranger at a party.  While men and women both experience nerves, Kay says women tend to let their nerves stop them from taking action.”

Just because studies show that women tend to exhibit less confidence than men doesn’t mean it has to stay that way.  Understanding that one or more of the three issues above may plague your actions is the first step in making a change and investing the energy necessary to ensure that you move forward in your career with confidence.

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Evans, Lisa. “Is There a Gender Gap in Confidence?” 1 May 2014  Entrepreneur.com

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