Yet, as I grew older, my fearlessness was soon tested by teachers, peers, adults, and colleagues alike. As Katty Kay and Claire Shipman point out in writing The Confidence Code, in general, men tend to think more highly of themselves than women. What makes this gap so dangerous is that confidence does not only apply to our careers and how much money we make.
And this, is what women constantly need to remember – sometimes the reason we’re not winning, is because we haven’t even signed up for the race.
The problem with thinking too much is that it is directly correlated with less confidence, less grit.
I’ve let my perfectionism get in the way of accomplishing my work, essentially delaying my dreams.
As Katty Kay and Claire Shipman relent, “We don’t answer questions until we are totally sure of the answer, we don’t submit a report until we’ve edited it nauseam, and we don’t sign up for that triathlon unless we know we are faster and fitter than [what] is required.
Similarly to a terrible date, once we experience our fears, failures, and rejections – they make us stronger and more willing to take on the new. It is amazing to see what work and challenges you are capable of handling without a thing holding you back! Sure, it will never be overnight, but like any new habits, we can slowly make our brains more confidence-prone.
Eve Stern revels in spreading and sharing stories - she is an editorial journalist, researcher, and policy analyst. This entry was posted in The Main Agenda and tagged career advice, confidence, confidence gap, life advice. Her Agenda is using the power of our community to help bridge the gap between ambition and achievement. In June The Atlantic published an articled called The Confidence Gap, which cited evidence that women are less self-assured than men. Even female leaders, women at the top of their careers—investment bankers, pioneering engineers, WNBA stars—revealed that they are plagued by self-doubt, that they feel they came across their success by luck rather than skill, that they feel like imposters or frauds, undeserving.
This little post cannot do the article justice and I encourage you to go read it, take the confidence test at the end, and then work toward change.
My husband read the bios of writers at a site I write for and he commented that almost all the women included sentences like, “trying and failing to …” or “blundering through …” or “a life filled with mistakes …” while few of the men’s bios included these kinds of caveats and disclaimers. Look at your painting, your pottery, the sermon you wrote, your diaper-changing, the meal you created last night. You tried to raise your children gender-neutral but your daughter still loves ballerinas and your son loves cars. You once had a woman as president of your organization but she never could communicate a vision.
Research is particularly crucial when we’re talking about differences between men and women.
And because those stories are easily passed around, we have to be careful not to let anecdotes about ballerinas or bad presidents become general truths. My investigation started after I heard a wonderful story that I wanted to use to illustrate the claim that under-qualified men will more easily apply for jobs than under-qualified women.
I’d seen research showing that men overestimate their skills, but I was remembering something more specific. An internal report at Hewlett-Packard revealed that women only apply for open jobs if they think they meet 100 percent of the criteria listed. Sandberg cites the article A business case for women, published in The McKinsey Quarterly by Georges Desvaux, Sandrine Devillard-Hoellinger and Mary C. Internal research at HP showed that women apply for open jobs only if they think they meet 100 percent of the criteria listed, whereas men respond to the posting if they feel they meet 60 percent of the requirements.
Accepting a research conclusion without being able to see the research violates just about all the tools in Carl Sagan’s wise and practical Baloney Detection Kit, recently discussed over at Brainpickings.
Next, I tweeted others who I thought might have more information, but kept getting sent back to the McKinsey article. Still no luck. This came from interviews with senior executives, which we conducted with many companies, including HP. McKinsey interviewer: Do you have any special challenges related to recruiting internally to higher-level positions? A claim reported to be the result of a study is starting to look less like research and more like gossip.
At this point, we know there is no legitimate, evidence-based foundation for the claim that men apply for jobs when they feel 60 percent qualified while women have to be 100 percent certain. Spreading this claim is particularly unfortunate because men and women probably do have different thresholds for applying for jobs.
Now, instead of addressing that situation constructively, skeptics can write off this cultural difference between men and women, justifying their indifference by pointing to arguments built on what we now believe to be hearsay.
All of us who have repeated this generalization should have seen a red flag right away. The alleged research claims a result in which 100 percent of women have a certain reaction. The McKinsey Quarterly has published something that looks like a study but in fact, it’s just a story. My interest in moving universities towards balance encompasses gender equality, the communication of scientific results, promoting research-based education and leadership development more generally.
As a Business School and MBA coach as well as being a head hunter I can only quote my personal and extensive experience is that that women tend not to apply for positions until they meet a higher percentage of the criteria than their male counterparts. Whether this is about lack of confidence or about colouring outside the lines I can’t say. But this 60 vs 100 thing is so over-used and under-justified that it’s almost acquired the status of an urban myth! I would love to see a real study on, when given a choice, how many little girls would pick the ballerina costume over the cars, or vice versa for the boys.

Ha, I came across this post while trying to track down the very same Hewlett Packard research for an article I’m working on. I encourage you to republish this article online and in print, under the following conditions.
If you’re republishing online, you must use our page view counter and link to its appearance here (included in the bottom of the HTML code), and include links from the story. Unless otherwise noted, all my pieces here have a Creative Commons Attribution licence -- CC BY 4.0 -- and you must follow the (extremely minimal) conditions of that license. Keeping all this in mind, please take this work and spread it wherever it suits you to do so!
Bryan is CEO & Co-founder of Miles Advisory Group (the parent company of the Brands of eaHELP and MAG Bookkeeping) and is blessed to run this company with his wife, Shannon. Here’s another post from my wife and co-founder Shannon, with some really important insight for her fellow female leaders.
The article talks about how men overstate their abilities and achievements, while women understate them. In my company of nearly 320 people, only six of which are men, I forget sometimes how difficult confidence is for women. Whether playing basketball on the street, speaking my mind, or wearing whatever I deemed fashionable, I felt invincible.
Something happens to all women, a unifying force which challenges our confidence more and more.
Reports from the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology discovered that no matter the country or culture, men triumph with higher self-esteem in comparison to women.
One example from the book pointed out that most “men go into everything just assuming that they’re awesome and thinking, ‘Who wouldn’t want me?’ – most of the men we interviewed, say they spend less time thinking about the possible consequences of failure,” writes Kay and Shipman. Women are biologically geared to make better, wiser decisions than males – no big deal, right? Women are more likely to stay in careers they are unhappy with longer, in fear of the unknown.
The more we do it, the more likely we are not taking action, sometimes never making a decision at all.
I, too, used to be fearful of submitting my writing, without having it looked over by multiple people, until I finally took the perfectionism down a notch and believed in my own abilities to successfully edit. I’m not only talking about letting go of fears, inhibitions, and walls, but also of everything we’re holding onto that’s no longer serving us to grow and evolve. Truly reflect on what you could accomplish, without fear, doubt, or a single negative voice whispering in your ear. Building confidence will mean different things for all of us – taking risks, working our ass off, learning to stand up for ourselves, self-reflecting, building our bodies, the list can go on. We can slowly teach our female friends, and families, and coworkers, what confidence really means. She writes for numerous digital platforms, with individual pieces often acting as the top viewed monthly content, reaching over 300K views. If you are ordering from overseas, please limit your order to digital products only: MP3s, e-books and e-courses. They found that confidence affected success just as much as competence and that women, in general, suffer an acute lack of confidence compared with men. Women don’t consider themselves as worthy as men for promotions, predict they will do worse on tests, underestimate their abilities, are less likely to ask for raises and if they do ask, they ask for less. Look at your essay and your photography and the blanket you knit and the math class you taught. And even as I served dinner to my family and our guests last night, I found myself apologizing for if it wasn’t quite right. Her book is full of inspiring stories, but in this one case, she creates a context by invoking research that neither she nor anyone else can actually put their hands on. I had read in Sandberg’s book the claim that men have a lower threshold for applying for jobs than women do, and I wanted to find the study. I do not have access to the internal HP document, nor do I have the actual contact, as this was a series of confidential interviews. Unless someone at Hewlitt-Packard or McKinsey can supply more information, it seems reasonable to assume this claim grew out of a simple exchange. Is it really true that they never apply for jobs when they think they’re under-qualified?
Stories are important, but they are different than studies. Research is more than just dressing up a story and publishing it in your company magazine.
They may also withdraw from a process more readily if something changes or if they feel they are under qualified. But, given the correspondence I had with the authors of the McKinsey article, I’m quite 95% sure it does not exist anywhere and 90% sure it never did. I tried to emphasize in this piece that anecdotes are important for communication, motivation and other good things, so they certainly are important.
Prior to starting MAG, he worked for companies in the tech and construction industries including Cogun, Inc., a national church construction company as the VP of Consulting. This results in women not going for promotions that they deserve, and feeling like they need to have all of the answers before putting themselves out there.
All of our women leaders have climbed the ranks and earned their positions, most of them from being executive assistants.
Whether by our looks, intelligence, skills, or opinions, without invitation, we are unanimously challenged. Findings show, women will not seek promotions, let alone jobs if they do not feel they fit all qualifications 100 percent. This level of awesome thinking transpires countlessly – essentially every time we use our brain.

How we interact with one another, build each other up, chase our dreams, feel comfortable in our bodies, let alone, how we take care of ourselves – all such qualities are dependent on our confidence. For example, the hedge-funds run by female hedge-fund managers continuously outperform those run by male managers, as women make smarter, more thought out investments.
You would never include in an essay what you “think,” you will simply state what you believe.
Since then, I have only grown more and more confident in my own work, and assurance that not everything has to be perfect. Yes, confidence may not only be about just feeling good about yourself, but it definitely includes it.
Unless they feel 100 percent confident, or borderline perfect, a woman is less likely to take a risk or initiate something new.
Look at the surgery you performed and the bill you got passed through congress and the hairstyle you designed. I had heard that women like to be 80% sure before they take a decision (unable to source that either).
There is probably a study out there somewhere, I haven’t looked, but it would be interesting to see numbers. I have The Confidence Code on my list as it cites new data on a number of items related to this. I think the reason this article is so shocking to me is that I’ve seen these scenarios played out in my career, but I have never seen it written about in such plain terms. Not only do we need to do this, but our companies, clients and teams also need us to fully use the talents and abilities we’ve been given.
Men, on the other hand, will courageously seek the same risk, with only 60 percent of qualifications to offer. One question mark makes the world of difference between, “I believe the new option is best!” instead of, “I believe the new option is best?” The better we become at expressing our beliefs, regardless of others’ approval, we will instantly sound more certain and in turn, be more respected. Although difficult, the faster we address and make decisions, the more assertive and powerful we will feel in our own choices, and furthermore save a lot of mental energy! It inhibits, making us feel weighed down and exhausted, juggling the opinions of bosses, bad friends, or unsupportive family members.
I wanted to but I was afraid (instead I studied an equally useless-when-it-comes-to-getting-a-job-degree). Look at the financial portfolio you managed and the house you sold and the client you represented and the blog post you wrote and the baby you nursed at three in the morning. I think there needs to be a fundamental shift in how we view ourselves and in what we expect out of ourselves, too. Those who serve must see themselves as having something good to offer and must also focus on the other person as well as Christ (if the service is done in His name).
I have decided to use the HP info in my talks with women because it always evokes a reaction and a discussion. The Confidence Code has lots of stories (including this one), and I’ve been in touch with its authors, too.
In order for our organizations to truly be all they should be, everyone on the team – men and women – has to lay it all on the line each and every day. Linda Babock, author of Women Don’t Ask, similarly identified that men initiate salary negotiations four times more than women, who even when they do, ask for 30 percent less than men.
For me, networking events were always a bit scary, and definitely outside of my comfort zone, yet I always force myself to attend.
Sure, I cannot endorse making impulsive, thoughtless decisions, but I can recommend that if you  practice quick decision making, it will be noticeable immediately.
Medical practitioner and life coach Dr Russ Harris has helped thousands of people overcome fear and develop genuine confidence. Keeping the myth alive hurts the greater research program and the social changes it can provoke. Because the more I go, the more comfortable I feel, not to mention, way more confident than when I first walked in.
Albeit trivial, instead of Yelping on where to go to dinner for 20 minutes, stop thinking so much and just act. The execs who created those numbers were giving form (whether scientifically accurrate or not) to a real phenomenon. So I hope the story works, and when I find something with a stronger research base, I’ll be sure to post about it. Confidence is strongly associated from risk taking, as it can be defined as a belief in the ability to succeed, a belief that builds action.
Compassionate, practical and inspiring, The Confidence Gap will help you identify your passions, succeed at your challenges and create a life that is truly fulfilling.
That putting my desire out so clearly to the world and then failing at it would be worse than not going for it at all. The people I know who suffer least from self-doubt and lack of confidence are those who are focused on helping others.
I have come to believe that for purposes of discussion and to help women take action for themselves it doesn’t matter if the gap is 40%, 20% or 5%. If you never leave your box, you will never be forced to utilize your belief that you too can do anything you want, waiting outside of your safety net. That is the confidence gap, it is timidity and cowardice and I have spent the past few years trying to wrench myself out of that gap.
I suspect that it’s in the beauty of community and risk of vulnerability that we will discover together with Christ our truest selves.

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