How to overcome “The Confidence Gap,” by Emily Valentine ’16

Over the summer I read an article in The Atlantic that concerned the purpose of this organization. “The Confidence Gap” by Katty Kay and Claire Shapman talked about what really holds many women back from reaching the top echelons of their respective career paths. Through all their interviews and conversations with accomplished businesswomen, Kay and Shapman realized what all these women had in common: self-doubt. Many women who had reached a high level of success claimed that luck accounted for some part of it. On the other hand, men were more likely to point to personal strengths and hard work as the catalysts of their achievements. The article says how many recent studies have shown that men display more confidence than women and this in turn could play just as big a role as competence when it comes to moving up the ranks of a company. Even when their performance and ability is the same, men believe they are more qualified while women tend to think they are less qualified.

What caught my interest in the article were female traits that Kay and Shapman said named as factors of this lack of confidence. Whether it’s our tendency to take the blame for when things go wrong or our perfectionism, it seems like as women we are constantly making the path to success more difficult for ourselves. From research it appears that this lack of confidence starts way before successful careers are even a concern: elementary school classrooms. At this age it is easier for young girls to behave and obey their teachers than it is for young boys. As a result of this, they get used to approval and praise and want to continue receiving it. This in turn makes girls more risk-averse. Unfortunately though, taking risks, making mistakes and persistence are “essential to confidence-building”. As girls grow older, research shows that they continue to lose self-esteem while boys tend to gain it.

While a lot of this seems like a gloomy outlook on women’s potential in the workplace and in life, the authors conclude the article by pointing out there are ways for women to improve and build their confidence. The advice they give is to “stop thinking so much and just act”. While of course this seems easier said than done, understanding what could be holding women back enables us to fight against these obstacles. Instead of overthinking and second guessing ourselves, we can accomplish more by taking action.

The full article can be found here:

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