When trying to succeed in business, confidence is one of the key factors a person needs to showcase. Confidence is not necessarily just believing you are the best at what you do, but rather also knowing one’s self-worth, believing in what you represent and having a strong sense of self. You always do your best. All this combined creates a person who is not afraid to lead, is consistent and grounded, able to succeed because they have trust in themselves to succeed. Confidence benefits both the employer and the employee – a confident employee is able to build a successful career, showcase their business ability and contribute significantly to the company. Such a company is sure to be able to execute operations efficiently and succeed due to its capable employees.
Although we can conclude that confidence is crucial when it comes to success in professional life, sadly, the so-called imposter syndrome is still very much present – research shows it is emblematic especially in women. Studies show that not only are women more likely to be less confident due to socialisation into prevailing gender norms of humbleness and servitude, but are also likely to question their own abilities. Women make up half of the U.S. workforce and hold almost 60 % of advanced degrees, but also earn less in their industries. Moreover, due to so-called ‘occupational sorting’, women choose careers at a lower level which also yield lower payer and lower contributions because they, according to the research, are more likely to feel as if they are not capable to perform at complex jobs (Gerdeman, 2019). What is more, they are less likely to contribute in group discussions due to this lack of confidence, and also shrug praise off and underestimate their capabilities. The most distressing fact here is that even women who are acclaimed professionals in their field showcase such behaviour (Gerdeman, 2019).
Perception of yourself. A study done by Coffman in 2018 found that women have much less confidence in believing in their capabilities when it comes to fields that are traditionally seen as male-dominated, such as math, cars, sports and business. Even when given positive feedback about their performance, women still rated their ability significantly lower than men did. Lastly, the study found that both, men and women, consistently discounted good news about their performance in the fields in which their gender is perceived to be less capable in. Stereotypes have perpetrated the fabric of society so deep that it has become increasingly complicated to actually convince persons of their ability and talent in the fields in which they believe their gender underperforms.
Making mistakes. Another factor that contributes to lack of confidence that women face in their professional life is the fact that they are more likely to receive a punishment more severe than their male counterpart for the same offence. A study done in the U.S. analysed the consequences of committing mistakes in the workplace for men and women. Its results showed that men are more likely to commit mistakes, however, when they are given bonuses, the sum tends to be around 20 % bigger than what women receive. Furthermore, women are 20 % more likely to be fired due to the mistake and they are 30 % less likely to find a job in the same industry after they have been fired due to making mistake, when compared to men (Blanding, 2018).
Different treatment. Overall, although both, men and women, underrate their performance in fields which are not associated with their gender, the additional factor of being treated differently further erodes women’s confidence. Gender diversity in the workplace can bring benefits on its own as well, but further biases need to be acknowledged and dealt with in order for the company to reap full benefits that gender balance brings. Installing confidence into all employees will benefit the company not only in being able to establish a workplace where everyone has equal ability and opportunity to contribute, but also in increasing productivity and efficiency, as well as success rates, due to the wider set of ideas and increased competence of employees.
There are numerous ways of resolving the issue of lack of confidence in the workplace by addressing the conscious as well and subconscious bias. For example, through GEMA Certificate process, we help companies identify ways to overcome the problem and achieve gender diversity and balance in the work environment. By establishing strong support networks within the workplace, the so-called ‘loving critics’ who offer support and constructive advice to women, your female employees will not hesitate as much, contributing more innovative ideas and increasing their performance. These cheerleaders are not meant only for tough times, when encouraging confidence is necessary, but they also contribute a sense of perspective. Furthermore, when awarding or punishing employees, objective performance factors should be taken into account. Overcoming the subconscious bias is not easy, and following objective KPIs for all employees will result in equal treatment, instilling a sense of trust in employees as well as removing fear of backlash. Lastly, just the simple step of encouraging female employees to speak up, share ideas and acknowledging their contributions in the company can represent the beginning of a more balanced work environment.
Blanding, M. (2018, December 18). Women Receive Harsher Punishment at Work Than Men. Harvard Business School. Available at https://hbswk.hbs.edu/item/women-receive-harsher-punishment-at-work-than-men?wk-ctest=rlink-click
Gerdeman, D. (2019, February 25). How Gender Stereotypes Kill a Woman’s Self-Confidence. Harvard Business School. Available at https://hbswk.hbs.edu/item/how-gender-stereotypes-less-than-br-greater-than-kill-a-woman-s-less-than-br-greater-than-self-confidence
Jepsen, S. (2019, January 4). 3 Ways Women Can Close the Confidence Gap. Entrepreneur. Available at https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/324469
Jones, A. (2019, November 25). Bridging the confidence gap at work means forming new habits. Financial Times. Available at https://www.ft.com/content/8ea25414-07be-11ea-a958-5e9b7282cbd1