“I’ve Got Confidence in Me” – or, Maybe Not so Much – (Here are My Takeaways from The Confidence Code by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman)

i-have-confidenceI have confidence in confidence alone
I have confidence in confidence alone
Besides which you see I have confidence in me!
Maria, The Sound of Music


The-Confidence-Code-MainThere is a quality that sets some people apart. It is hard to define but easy to recognize. With it, you can take on the world; without it, you live stuck at the starting block of your potential.
What they share is confidence. It’s potent, essential even, and for women, it’s in alarmingly short supply.
Katty Kay, Claire Shipman; The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance – What Women Should Know

You really do know it when you see it. When a person has confidence, it is as though that person is ready for any challenge. It is immediately “seeable.” And in this good book by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman, the journalist friends who have now written their second book together (their first was Womenomics), they say that a shortage of confidence is a critical shortage for woman in the workplace.

And, the authors posit that this shortage is one of the causes for this reality: women are simply not represented as they should be in the top ranks of American business life. From the book:

The statistics are well-known, and they aren’t pretty. Women earn on average 77 cents for every dollar earned by a man. Four percent of CEOs in the Fortune 500 are women. Twenty of the 100 United States senators are women, and even that is celebrated as a record high.

In the book, they deal with some specific problems:

Problems unique to women (or, at least, to a much greater extent than men)

      • Women ruminate more, and hold on to mistakes much longer than men
      • Women are shackled by a sense of perfectionism  (Thus they cannot “volunteer/step up” until they are certain they can tackle the challenge – contrasted with men, who will step up long before they are certain in the same way).
      • Women “have to tone it down…” – they are not accepted when they are as assertive as men – assertive like men
      • Assertive women are viewed as: ”DUBS — dumb ugly bitches – as they are called at the Naval Academy).

And here are My takeaways:

1)    Women under-represented at the top levels is a lingering, long-term problem/challenge.
2)    This is going to require far more “consciousness raising” efforts, and “working together” efforts.
3)    Women are going to have to participate in more behaviors and activities that raise their confidence.
4)    Women will have to (continue to) “over-prepare” – be more prepared than men.
5)    And, at some point, the “good workplace experience” motive (like morale) will need to genuinely rival the 
profit motive.
• In other words, women need to bring about these changes without selling their souls (without losing “what is unique about women”).

Though the book is filled with suggestions, and is very much worth reading (along with the other good “women in business” books of recent years), I think the book actually defines and elaborates on the challenge women face more than it presents the solution.

In other words, this issue has not improved much for women in the workplace, and there is a very long way to go.


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