Our group spent several meetings discussing confidence and Katty Kay and Claire Shipman’s article in The Atlantic titled “The Confidence Gap”. You may ask, if I am smart and good at my job, why does my confidence matter?

“Confidence is the stuff that turns thoughts into action”

Richard Petty, Ohio State University [1]

Confidence is an attractive trait. We like confident people and forgive their errors more easily. Women tend to have systematically lower confidence levels than men and thus often underestimate their abilities. This has important ramifications in their work lives as women are more likely to turn down opportunities, not apply for them in the first place, and unlikely to request a raise.

“Success, it turns out, correlates just as closely with confidence as it does with competence.” [1]

There are often difficulties in bridging the confidence gap because fake confidence is easy to spot, so the feelings must be genuine. In addition, there are unconscious biases against assertive/extremely confident women (see our post on unconscious biases for more information).

There are theories on why this may happen (early life training and hormones), but the most important question to answer is what can you do about it right now? Luckily, confidence can be acquired!

Get focused – start small, don’t get overwhelmed.

Be grateful – happiness and an optimistic mindset encourages confidence.

Ban the “Negative Automatic Thoughts” – use logic to define your successes.

Face failure – imagine the consequences, then take small risks.

Also realize that your peers/students may struggle with confidence issues. Think of others and realize that not everyone may feel comfortable or confident in all classroom and learning settings. Remember to be encouraging if your student or peer looks like they may be struggling with their confidence. Everyone likes to be told when they do a good job.

If you are interested to see your confidence levels take the Confidence Code Assessment.


Interested in learning more?

[1] The Atlantic’s “The Confidence Gap”

Katty Kay and Claire Shipman are the authors of The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance—What Women Should Know.

There is also a hard copy in the Astronomy Library.

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