The Confidence Gap in Leadership
Is the confidence gap in leadership between men and women in organisations a myth? Let’s explore this concept.
As a senior female leader in the Corporate world, I experienced many occasions where my confidence was impacted and at times eroded. I allowed myself to experience self doubt when challenged usually by dominant males. Feelings of intimidation haunted me at times.
Looking Back Through History
History shows that there have been creative, innovative and powerful female leaders throughout the ages. These women have held influential leadership roles, sometimes in eras when it was not accepted for females to hold such roles. They broke barriers and led the way for future female leaders.
One such ground breaking female was Amelia Earhart:
Around the 1920’s, a young women Amelia Earhart became a fully qualified pilot. As a result of her hard work, challenging work conditions in a heavily male dominated environment, she went on to be the first women to fly solo across the transatlantic.
Many believed that it was her confidence, belief and determination that created her success.
Studies suggest that confidence is equally as important as competence. Both qualities lead to action and achievement. Amelia exhibited these traits and she became the first women to fly solo. Later she went on to set many other records.
Research at Cornell University showed that gender differences in confidence are evident. Finding that men overestimate their abilities and performance. Conversely, women underestimate both. It was found that for both groups their performance was similar both in quality and quantity.
What some Have Said?
Sheryl Sandberg, CEO of Facebook stated:
“Too many women lack confidence; to get ahead you should conquer your fear, “think less, act more,” don’t aim to please but aim for respect. Speak up. Dare to offer new ideas. Don’t worry if they’re shot down, just go back at it and offer new ones”.
The Imposter Syndrome
As a result, the “Imposter Syndrome” was identified when female confidence was challenged. This led to women feeling that they were not deserving of the job. Many females worried about not being liked. Being fearful of attracting too much attention.
In comparison, men also doubt themselves. However, they do not seem to let the doubts affect them as much as women do. In conclusion, research showed that womens confidence increases over time.
How Females Confidence is Perceived?
In addition Forbes, research suggests that it is not that females lack confidence. Females try to avoid the “backlash effect” (the social consequences of asserting or promoting themselves).
It appears that being confident is gender neutral. However the consequences of appearing self confident are not. Women who appear self confident are often perceived as less likeable.
Here are some strategies that may increase levels of confidence:
- Mindset – focus on your strengths and stay positive
- Presentation – Dress to impress
- Body language – Stand tall, maintain eye contact and use positive facial expressions
- Attitude – Interact, engage, speak up in meetings
- Speech – project your voice, clearly articulate your words, pause for emphasis
- Communication – use humor, be respectful, ask questions
In conclusion, the Harvard Business Review acknowledge that no study has been able to provide a definitive understanding of gender bias in the workplace. However, they do acknowledge the importance of organisations monitoring the perceptions of high performing women and men and their career progression. By creating transparency will breakdown these gender bias.
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