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Bonus Focus - Is There a Confidence Gap Between Men and Women?


By Kimberly A. Farrell

On April 24, 2014, Atlantic Magazine published a thought provoking article on how women vs. men communicate their confidence as professionals at work. In this article,“The Confidence Gap,” by authors Katty Kay and Claire Shipman, their research states that:

• Women don’t consider themselves ready for promotions and are less likely than men to even apply for posted job openings without being 100 percent qualified based on the job description while men will apply at about a 60 percent qualified applicant rate.
• Research shows women will predict they will do worse on tests than they actually will do and overall underestimate their academic abilities.
• In athletic team competition, from a young age, girls opt out of sports at a rate six times greater than young boys do, impacting their opportunities to learn how to compete, be part of a team, persevere and reach new goals.

Looking at the metrics over a period of 40 years quantitatively, women have continued to increase their level of earnings, athletic achievement and academics success from 1970 to 2010. With those statistics, wouldn’t their confidence grow in alignment with their achievements?

The Environment Plays a Role
It’s not just an issue for women to solve by themselves. We know that when supervisors and managers choose not to provide women they hire with equal and fair wages, it impacts the self-esteem of the employee. Anyone who feels under compensated for equal work is bound to loose confidence. Other managers perpetuate the Pygmalion Effect of this cycle when they don’t do a salary compensation adjustment when they evaluate their departments’ compensation across functional areas, which further perpetuates the myth that the performance of the woman is only worth 77 cents on the dollar compared to men. When the women have the knowledge of this gross discrepancy, it further negatively influences the women’s confidence and sense of value. The cycle of injustice continues…

Unconfident Counterparts?
Here are common roadblocks women list to their professional success:

• Women feel there are powers outside themselves that impact their access to senior level jobs.
• Women believe that they don’t have the support to make it to the next level either at home, work or from both.

Senior women and HR Executives cite that women consistently say “no” to offers that allow them to be considered for promotions because they believe they are not ready. Even when the person requesting they compete for the open job is the hiring manager, their immediate manager or their bosses’ boss.

So what can today’s women professional do to ensure she communicates confidence in business settings in order to put herself out front as a competent, confident competitor for promotions? Here are seven strategies for women to increase their confidence:

1. Own the Journey. Do not allocate the responsibility of your career to others at work or at home. It is your imprint in business. Your access to greater financial achievement and retirement security. Don’t wait for others to tap you on the shoulder to step up. Just do it, yourself.
2. Critique and then Develop Yourself. Plan how you will develop the skills, knowledge and leadership behaviors you need for the next role you want. Use volunteer opportunities to fill gaps in your skills or experiences needed for the next promotion.
3. Think Promotion vs. Safe Lateral Moves. When you anticipate an opening, get informal and set up a chat with the hiring manager.
4. Seek Support and Feedback. Make choices for your development that also align with the assessments of key stakeholders for your career growth.
5. Negotiate. Negotiate hiring offers, pay raises, vacation, stock and bonus money. Calibrate your requests with solid research on like work, level and performance for the best odds of influencing the decisions.
6. Take Risks. Put your application in for your next career move even if you are only 60 percent qualified according to the job posting and then prior to the interview figure out your answers to how you will fill the gaps if you get the job.
7. Be Assertive and Prepared. Look at the competition for the job you want (or guess who the competition is and analyze their profiles) in order to think through what your strengths and shortcomings are, compared to other candidate profiles and sell yourself as the best candidate.

Role Models
Yes, there are women who lack confidence. But there are many who do not lack confidence. Whichever type of woman you believe you are, find a role model in your organization or at LTEN and emulate them.

When at work be prepared to at a moment’s notice articulate your passion for your company, job, manager and team. Know on a daily basis what your two-minute project leadership overview will be and how it aligns with the current goals of the broader organization. Be ready in the “elevator” when asked by a company leader: “What is new with you?”

You’ve got this. You are educated, achievement-oriented and a rising star. (You got promoted to trainer,didn’t you?) It is time to make sure everyone you meet knows the facts about your work and leadership capacity. If you do, odds are in your favor that your professional confidence will grow reaping a yield of many wonderful career harvests.

Kimberly Farrell is a past board member for LTEN (formerly SPBT) and a contributing writer for Focus magazine, Advisory Board Member and CEO of Unlimited Performance Training, Inc. Kimberly can be reached at

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