Girls & the Confidence Gap

I’m reading an article in The Atlantic about girls and the so-called confidence gap. In a survey, young girls were asked, “on a scale of one to ten, how confident are you?” The average response at age 12 was 8. But by the time the girls were 14, the number dropped to 6. The authors of the article, Katty Kay and Claire Shipman, embarked on a journey investigating women and confidence that resulted in the publication of “The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance–What Women Should Know.” The elusive nature of confidence has intrigued the two women since 2009, when they wrote a book called “Womenomics.” In interviewing women in high-powered, influential positions, they found a shortage of evidence of high levels of “raw, flourishing, female confidence.” Even the authors themselves, both outstanding in the journalism field, admitted they felt that they somehow were not intelligent enough or competent enough to rise to the highest levels of their domains.

Kay and Shipman studied the available literature and did indeed find that there is a vast confidence gap between the sexes. Compared with men, women felt they weren’t prepared for promotions, predicted they’d do worse on tests, and “generally underestimated their abilities. This disparity stems from factors ranging from upbringing to biology.” They found that men overestimate their performance and abilities, and that women underestimate both. However, their performances “do not differ in quality” when they were given tests, especially when the directions stated that all questions must at least be attempted.

There are days when I live in crippling fear that I’m not doing my job well enough, and I’m a thorough perfectionist, which is another confidence killer. Reading through this article was a real eye-opener. It states that with a little work, confidence can be acquired, and thus the confidence gap can be closed. Confidence accumulates through hard work, through success, and even through failure. What one of the studies the women consulted found, though, was that women hold themselves back by their choice to not even try. Ultimately, though, women just need to go out on a limb, stop thinking so much, and act–a very powerful prescription, aligning as it does with everything research tells us  are the sources of female reticence.

So, I will stop obsessing over my lesson plans so much and just get up and do it. As one of the respondents to the article stated, “fake it till you make it.” Easier said than done. But we women need to provide each other with good examples of confidence in order to build on our achievements and to decrease our lack of going for the gold ring. We’re as good as men, and it’s time everybody knows it.

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