Women, Men and the Confidence Gender Gap


Sure, men can lack confidence (and they often mask the lack differently than women) but study after study shows that this is a much bigger problem for women. We tend to be less confident—regardless of how talented we are. We are much more critical of ourselves and tend to have perfectionistic standards for ourselves. This starts young but becomes much more noticeable from the ages of 8-9 onwards, when girls tend to dumb themselves down.

There are many reasons why, including that girls and women are taught to be more yielding and obedient, not to be outspoken or assert ourselves. As women, our natural style of communication, which is less fact-based and more based on emotions and social connections, has not been valued. Therefore we tend to doubt and undermine ourselves as we speak, and water things down. We are more often interrupted, ignored or talked over, and our words, and we ourselves, as women, have not been respected or taken as seriously. A groundbreaking book on this is “In A Different Voice” by Carol Gilligan.

We are so conditioned to being undermined, dismmissed or trivialized, that it shows up in our voice, posture and movements—even when we take center stage as a speaker and authority. In my training at the Authentic Speaker Academy, I noticed that each of the women speakers did some kind of shrug, giggle or other minimizing or hiding gesture whenever their speech called for them to assert their knowledge or make a declarative sentence. It was quite an eye-opener to see this so clearly.

Beyond research studies, it’s easy to observe the gender gap in confidence in everyday life. In her book about women and leadership called “Leaning In” , Sheryl Sandberg, CEO of Facebook, describes a meeting with consultants, where all of the women from the consulting firm seated themselves at a separate table, unasked, on their own—and stayed apart from the main boardroom table even though they were peers of their male colleagues. I experienced different versions of this many times during my 18 year career in the male dominated world of corporate finance and accounting.

I have no interest in blaming the women, or even the men, in this story. What needs attention and changing is the systemic undermining of women from our earliest days. We need to become more aware of it, and address this problem on many levels—starting with our everyday thoughts, feelings and actions. As a woman, whether you have a business, corporate career or mission in the world—for profit or not—you need to examine how holding back, perfectionism and procrastination are slowing down your progress towards your goals and impacting your business negatively. Awareness of this is key–but don’t stop there!

The next step is to learn how to address and transform these confidence issues, for your own personal growth, empowerment and prosperity and to become a model, inspiration and sister to other girls and women. This work around confidence needs to happen for your success in business, for the evolution of women-and men and the future of the Earth.

Now that’s what I call productive and enlightened multi-tasking!

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  1. Debbie says:

    Oh my gosh, you are right on about all of this. Looking forward to reading more from you.
    Debbie recently posted..Breaking Toes and Wasting TimeMy Profile

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