Confidence and the Ceiling

20 May

I went to a presentation by Baroness Helena Kennedy recently and she was saying how, generally, men do not feel the need to fulfil all the job specifications before applying for a job. Women on the other hand, do. Even then they might still not apply for the job.

I went to another presentation later that day, by Peninah Thomson – a partner of UK’s leading executive coaching firm and author of A Woman’s Place in the Boardroom. She was saying that if a woman feels she is missing one of the job requirements, she will wait for another post to come along for which she will meet all the requirements. However, the men she mentors will just go for it, regardless of whether or not they fulfil all the criteria.

Only this week, these theories and generalisations really came to the fore for me. At work I manage a young man. He is very keen to progress within the organisation where we work, so he asked to meet to discuss his career progression.  I suggested he look for jobs that matched his skill set, which, at this stage, means having modest expectations since he only just graduated. He comes over to my desk later in the day and tells me about a great job he has found and whether it would be okay if he left the post early in order to start this great new job. I ask him what the post is, and it’s one which requires substantial experience. I had myself looked at it earlier that day and dismissed it, thinking, ‘even though I fulfil the criteria, I’m unlikely to get it’ and didn’t think about it again. But the young, inexperienced male in front of me seemed pretty confident he was going to get it.

Whilst there are many structural problems stopping enough women from progressing and crashing through the glass ceiling, I think a lot of it has to do with our inherent modesty, how humble we are and how reluctant we are to think big and bold. To go toe-to-toe with men who generally believe the world is theirs for the taking, we need to be more confident. This lack of confidence is not only stopping us from applying for those top level posts, but it is also part of the reason why we get paid less, as we are four times less likely to ask for a pay rise than a man (The Economist, 2011).

Since inequality in pay and the glass ceiling cannot just be attributed to male discrimination, but in part to our lack of confidence, it’s time we said goodbye to modesty and bravely welcomed in a new era of assertive confidence.

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One Response to “Confidence and the Ceiling”

  1. allergickids May 21, 2012 at 7:32 am #

    Really enjoying your posts. So relevant, so concise. Just fantastic.
    About mens confidence: it also impacts physical space. Heterosexual men tend to dominate physical space to the exclusion of others (think of the way they put one leg on another or have their legs open when on public transport so the woman next them has to minimize her own space. Or the way they walk on pavements taking up more space than they physically need to).
    Absolutely agree with your post on the guy suing LSE. It’s probably just a publicity stunt and i can’t believe he is being taken seriously. And surely men are not being raped by women because of gendered power issues but by other men where gender isn’t coming into it in the same way?

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