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Former U.S. Representative Stephanie Herseth Sandlin wants women to understand confidence is just as important as competence in the workplace. It’s a skill many women struggle with — even ladies at the top of their fields, like Clara Shih of Hearsay Social and Sheryl Sandberg. Each has confessed they wake up feeling like frauds or impostors on off days.
This kind of honesty about women underselling themselves can only help bring further attention to an issue that we need to be mindful of: The Gender Confidence Gap.
Sandlin has been lucky in her own career to have people pushing her with words of encouragement, and she has paid it forward, imparting some of her thoughts at the annual In Her Shoes Empowerment Breakfast last Friday. Saying to her audience:
“Women don’t rate themselves and their abilities as high as they should. Confidence is a talent along with competence.”
As it turns out psychologists have found this mindset is true for many women. Psychologists Joyce Ehrlinger and David Dunning found in their own research that women consistently underestimated how well they did on tests. Whereas men tended to overestimate their results. In the real world we see these traits manifest themselves in self-evaluations in the workplace and applying for certain jobs. Men will often take the risk and apply to something they are underqualified for. But women, if their qualifications don’t match up 100 percent, will pass up the opportunity. Even once women enter into a job, they hesitate to self-promote.
In a blog post, Kristin Wong, describes how she came to a breaking point at 30 when she realized she could no longer work for peanuts:
“I had a high tolerance for low pay, and it didn’t do me any favors. But I realized that, gender gap or not, if I wanted to reach my money goals, I needed to speak up.”
As more women come forward to talk honestly about this disparity in thought, perhaps we can help each other to gain the confidence necessary to take the step to minimize this confidence gap. Sandlin has been fortunate in her experiences to have people confirming her goals for her, but not everyone has that luxury. However, the internet is a wonderful forum to help us keep talking and building the foundation to take the risks to move forward.
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This article is part of a series on developing women leaders presented in partnership with PwC. Watch Claire Shipman and “The Confidence Code” co-author Katty Kay in a live webcast presented by PwC on February 27th. Register here for the webcast, and follow the conversation on Twitter:#PwCAspire.