The Confidence Gap 

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In the most basic terms, the confidence gap can be defined as how little women think of themselves and their accomplishments versus how highly men do. This idea of the confidence gap was explored immensely in Katty Kay and Claire Shipman’s book, The Confidence Code. Claire Shipman started her career as a broadcaster for CNN and eventually joined the ABC News team and Good Morning America, where she discusses women’s issues. Katty Kay started her career in economics and worked at a bank. She soon realized economics work was not for her and pursued a career in journalism. Shipman and Kay wrote their first book, Womenomics, which came out on June 2, 2009. Womenomics is a New York Times bestseller, which lead them to write their next bestseller, The Confidence Code, released in 2014. In their book, Kay and Shipman go to great lengths and into substantial depth on whether or not the confidence gap is a true issue for girls. They talk to many researchers and conduct some of their own studies to prove this theory throughout their book. The underlying message from this book is that women lack confidence in comparison to men, which holds them back in many fields due to confidence being correlated to achievement.

In class, one of the first things learned was about the nature versus nurture debate. Although we didn’t look at it directly through the lens of confidence, it is something that we discussed related to gender identity. Kay and Shipman, however, looked at the effects of nature and nurture on the confidence difference between males and females. Their findings suggest that both nature and nurture contribute to a female’s lower confidence level. Girls’ brains tend to develop emotional intelligence faster than boys, which suggests that they are more cautious in their words and actions. Boys also have a spike of testosterone, which encourages taking risks and putting yourself out there without fear of failure. This suggests that boys are able to take action to master something without the fear of failure, while girls are more cautious of the consequences that come from being wrong. On the nurture side of things, girls are taught at a young age to be quiet, still, and to always do as their told. This reduces confidence in a female later in life, because they are taught to be perfectionists and not to take risks until they are certain that they are correct. Shipman and Kay suggest a few recommendations on how women can overcome the odds that are stacked against them. Some of these tips include: meditating- to calm the brain, thinking small- to simplify problems and take things one step at a time, practicing power positions- to feel more confident as you talk, leaving their comfort zone- to put themselves out there to fail for the greater benefit of growth, etc. They also suggest that different parenting techniques, such as allowing children to fail in order to instill confidence in them, could help young girls when they’re older. Each tip is offered as a way for women to increase their confidence with little changes that could potentially help build their confidence in the long-run.

Women in politics is something that we discussed a lot in Women’s and Gender Studies class. Women in politics are sought after a lot during the third wave of feminism. Women who attempt to run for a political position do so because they want to see change occur for all women. Kay and Shipman did their own study based on the women of Georgetown University, who essentially were a part of a non-profit organization that was founded in order to help women to run for public office. Kay and Shipman asked basic questions in order to see how confident these females were to run for public office. Their findings were similar to that of the nurture debate, that these females just did not have the self-belief in themselves that they could beat out a male candidate in a field that is dominantly male.

Another study, done by an Ohio State psychologist, Jenny Crocker, has found that women thrive off of doing things for others, rather than themselves. She found that turning limelight away from themselves and onto other people gave women more confidence. This is useful and relates to the topics discussed in class because a Senator, named Kirsten Gillibrand used this very principle to help encourage women to run for Congress. As mentioned earlier, females running for office is very necessary in order to advance gender equality and other policies that may be due to male domination. Kirsten Gillibrand says, “As soon as a candidate realizes it’s not about self-aggrandizement, particularly a female candidate, they become stronger and they become more purpose-driven”(Kay & Shipman, 2014, p. 152). Gillibrand uses the method of Crocker to convince female candidates to run in order to protect other females who don’t have the same opportunities. According to the latest Global Gender Gap Report, the United States is ranked sixtieth in terms of women’s political empowerment (Kay & Shipman, 2014, p. 99). Christine Lagarde, another woman of power who runs the International Monetary Fund, uses her powerful position to help get women to the top in companies and states. She does this because she believes that diversity helps the well-being of the overall economy.

Kay and Shipman’s findings about women in politics not being confident due to male-dominance is a trend throughout the book. In class, we learned about women in the workplace and how disadvantaged they are when it comes to comparison to men. We learned that women are employed in the lowest paid occupations, and are nowhere near as employed in the highest paying jobs as men. We also learned that women are paid less in the same jobs due to differences in education/experience, women are less likely to negotiate for higher pay, etc. According to the latest Global Gender Gap Report by the World Economic Forum, the United States is ranked sixty-seventh in terms of gender pay equality (Kay & Shipman, 2014, p. 99). Kay and Shipman go to great lengths to determine why a lack of confidence would put women at a disadvantage in the workplace. According to a study done by Carnegie Mellon University Professor Linda Babcock, she found that within her business school students, men tend to initiate salary negotiations four times as much, and when women do negotiate, they ask for thirty-percent less than men do. According to a study done by Rutgers University graduates, “It found that’s the average pay gap between young men and young women in the first five years after college, and it increases over the years because women don’t ask for more money”(Kay & Shipman, 2014, p. 103). Women spend far too much time thinking about the consequences of failure rather than thinking about the rewards of success. Simply put, men think less about the possibility of failure, and more about the outcome if they are successful. This reason, among others, is why men are more respected and more represented in the workplace.

Discrimination amongst females in the workplace is something that is inevitable at this point, but needs to be addressed in order for change to continue to occur. For whatever reason, women earn on average 77 cents for every dollar earned by a man. In class, we learned that the importance of this is truly unexplained. According to many researches, “… companies that do employ women in large numbers outperform their competitors by every measure of profitability”(Kay & Shipman, 2014, p. 87). Women do not lack knowledge, they are just discriminated against and not given equal opportunities as men are. Linda Hudson, CEO and president of BAE systems, says, “When a man walks into a room, they’re assumed to be competent until they prove others wrong. For women, it’s the other way around”(Kay & Shipman, 2014, p. 97). Even women, like Linda, who hold a high position still feel the need to conform to the society’s stereotypes about women.

Self-confidence is something that everyone wishes to possess. In this class, we learned about the different beauty standards and how they affect the way that young girls see themselves, which often leads to self-esteem and other issues in the future. Clearly an issue, women often look down on themselves due to not meeting a certain beauty standard that is close to impossible to meet. Kay and Shipman go deep into the discussion of self-confidence and how it plays a role in everything we do. Kay and Shipman (2014) write, “Confidence that is dependent on other people’s praise is a lot more vulnerable than confidence built from our own achievements”(p. 133). The problem with depending on compliments is that people won’t act on something if they’re not given approval. This dependence on others approval will lead to less confidence in the long-run. They state, “Perfection is the enemy of confidence”(p. 177). Kay and Shipman give plenty of pieces of advice on how to discourage perfectionism in our daughters. Some examples include, laughing at your own mistakes, praising them moderately, not excessively, showing them you aren’t perfect, either, push out the pink stereotype, being firm, making them play a sport, etc. Each tip that they’ve given is to show young girls that they don’t have to be perfect and that confidence requires action. Major General Jessica Wright, the Undersecretary of Defence for Personnel and Readiness, was very feminine regardless of having a “mans” job. She shares the tips of, “Enjoy getting your hair and nails done. Just because you’re working in a man’s world, she laughed, doesn’t mean you always have to look like them”(Kay & Shipman, 2014, p. 37). This advice goes along with the advice that we are given by Jessica Valenti at the end of her Full Frontal Feminism book. Valenti (2007) suggests, “Wear high heels, mascara, and whatever else you want”(p. 244). Both of these pieces of advice, by both women, allow women to know that it is okay to express themselves for who they are, and not what other people want them to be.

The Confidence Code by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman is a powerful book that provides insight to the confidence gap amongst genders and also persuades us to try to fix the gap. While confidence is slightly due to genetics, there is a way to gain more confidence by taking action, risks, and being willing to fail a few times. The confidence gap comes from women generally underestimating their abilities, whether it comes from taking a test or asking for a promotion, women just doubt themselves more than men. Success correlates just as closely with confidence as it does with knowledge, which is why women are so underrepresented in higher levels of work. With work, taking risks, and putting themselves out there without fear of failure, women are able to close the confidence gap and ultimately, hopefully one day, be equally represented in all aspects of life as men.

Cite this paper

The Confidence Gap . (2022, May 06). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/the-confidence-gap/

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