You’re Better Than That
Women’s lack of confidence is a major hindrance to our ability to kick ass.
A 2014 study that sprawled 48 countries and more than 14,000 participants found a pronounced gap between how men and women assess their abilities — which, of course, impacts their willingness to pursue promotions, raises, and other just deserts.
Rich Willens, a co-author of the study, summarized it best: “Even though in theory their competency levels are the same, men feel they are excellent at their roles.” That’s it. They don’t have stronger skills. They’re not more competent. They just have the ability to genuinely believe in themselves.
Here are four major confidence killers and how to get over them.
“I’m Not Qualified”
By now, you’ve probably heard the oft-touted Hewlett Packard statistic (quoted in Lean In) that women apply for jobs only if they meet 100 percent of the qualifications while men apply if they meet 60 percent.
But when Tara Sophia Mohr did a follow-up, she found that applicants didn’t necessarily feel that they needed all those qualifications to do the job well. They just thought they needed those qualifications to be hired — which is simply not true.
Mohr points out that applicants “didn’t see the hiring process as one where advocacy, relationships, or a creative approach to framing one’s expertise could overcome not having the skills and experiences outlined in the job qualifications.”
Clearly, not everyone is reading job qualifications in the same way. A better approach: Think of qualifications as guidelines rather than hard and fast requirements.
“I Don’t Have the Right Look”
Whether everyone else is tall and male or in business suits with blowouts, there's a whole mess of physical attributes that can make you feel like you don't belong. We can’t lie and say appearances don’t matter. Case in point: Women who wear makeup are considered more competent and trustworthy (baffling).
That said, we are all — men and women — playing the same dress-up mind game. A 2012 study led by Adam D. Galinsky of Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management found that “when we put on certain clothes, we might more readily take on a role and … that might affect our basic abilities.” Dr. Galinsky and his team asked 58 undergrads to wear either a white lab coat or street clothes during an exam. Students in lab coats made fewer errors, which the scientists attributed an inflated sense of intelligence.
Use it. We know Hillary Clinton would be badass in a sweatsuit, but her power uniform doesn’t hurt. Invest in pieces that make you feel like your version of Hillary — and remember there are plenty of ways to look powerful beyond fashion.
“What if No One Likes Me?”
Screw it. Well-behaved women seldom make history, as Laurel Thatcher Ulrich once very famously said. More importantly, the paramount goal — however subconscious — of being liked is a woman’s curse. Holding back our true feelings or playing the "nice girl" does nothing to advance the necessary fight for equal pay, better working conditions, and flexibility.
Do this instead: Learn to brag about yourself. Speak up loud and clear. Don’t apologize for what you think. You may not be voted Miss Congeniality, but you’ll do good work and people will respect you for it (unless your office is sexist).
“I Don’t Deserve This”
A study by Babson College revealed that even when ladies are cutting their own checks as entrepreneurs, they still pay themselves less than male entrepreneurs do. The data was inconclusive as to why, but experts are throwing around the evergreen “women lack confidence” theory — even when women are literally paying themselves.
Value your work and your worth, because nobody else will if you don’t set the precedent. High. You deserve all the money and nice promotions and vacations and partners who respect you.