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The Confidence Gap

May 6, 2014

Hannah Barnett ‘16  Women In Leadership

A recent book emerged by Claire Shipman, a reporter for ABC News, and Katty Kay, the anchor for BBC World America, that brings into consideration a new divide amongst men and women besides that of wage. The book, The Confidence Code: The Science And Art of Self-Assurance—What Women Should Know, discusses the confidence gap between men and women through research and interviews conducted with women in politics, sports, and the military. The book asks questions such as: Is confidence genetic? Is confidence more vital for success than expertise? Why do some women, even at the highest levels in professions, continue to grapple with bouts of self-doubt?

Shipman and Kay’s research produced studies that showed that women underestimate themselves while men tend to overestimate their abilities and performance. One study, conducted by professor Marilyn Davidson from the Manchester Business School in England, asked her students what they expected and deserved to earn five years after graduation. Professor Davidson reported that her male students averaged $80,000 in their responses, while female students averaged $64,000 or less. In applying for job positions, it was found that women applied for promotions solely when they believed the qualifications were met 100 percent while men applied when 60 percent of qualifications were fulfilled.

Since the unveiling of the book, several articles were published with lists and suggestions on how to proceed in closing the confidence gap. The suggestions ranged from building confidence in minors aged 4 to 14 instead of in adults to speaking in lower tones instead of a nervous high-pitched voice to sound more confident. Another article from The Federalist recommended women take more assertive decisions in their everyday lives, such as buying their own birth control or choosing between working at home or in an office, but above all, owning the decisions and pushing through without doubts.

A critique of the book holds that Kay and Shipman focus on the self-doubt that some women harbor inside of themselves and ignore that idea that self-doubt stems from societal issues. The article reads, “While Kay and Shipman give a nod to ambitions women who are judged more harshly than their male peers, they seem to have no solution—other than putting the onus on women to change.” The article goes on to outline that the confidence gap is a societal problem and that not only women need to change their mentality for the gap to become non-existent.

Kay and Shipman’s information may have kinks to work out in how to implement closing the gap, but it is a stepping-stone in identifying the issues men and women can address while working to find solutions in building confidence levels.

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