What is the Confidence Gap

By McKenzie Schwark
Confidence Gap

Although women have made incredible strides in the workplace, it seems there are still some things holding them back from achieving equality with their male peers in the workplace. One of the number one main things holding women back is confidence. Much like the pay gap, evidence suggests there is also a confidence gap between men and women.

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic wiped women out of the workforce, studies and surveys showed that women were not as confident as their male peers when it came to their careers. It’s harder for women to climb the corporate ladder, the stakes are higher, and high levels of competence and self-awareness may also play a role.

A 2003 study by psychologist David Dunning found an interesting correlation between competence and confidence. It turned out the less competent people are, the more confident they tend to be in their abilities. This phenomenon is known as the Dunning-Kruger effect and suggests something interesting about the confidence gap.

In studies where men and women’s abilities are pretty much the same, women tend to underestimate their abilities and performance while men tend to overestimate those same things. A study conducted by Hewlett-Packard found that women didn’t apply for promotions unless they believed they met 100% of the qualifications listed for the job. Men applied for those same promotions when they met just over half of the qualifications.

The confidence gap can’t be addressed without also addressing the other gaps men and women face in the workforce. There are significant barriers for women when it comes to achieving the same status as their male peers. This means that if a woman fails she has more to lose than a man in a similar position. Women are more likely to experience sexual harassmentless likely to be promoted or receive a pay raise, less likely to see other women in leadership or mentor positions, and are likely to not receive paid maternal leavechildcare, or even adequate healthcare coverage. This lack of benefits and resources must also keep women from feeling confident in their abilities, or willing to take risks within their careers.

The past year has set women back even further within the workforce. It’s understandable that women would feel even less confident in their careers after a year when lack of resources, inefficient benefits, and additional responsibilities drove so many out of the workforce or set back their careers. In getting back to where women were pre-pandemic there is no time for lack of confidence.