Posted by: delaneymenoher | February 14, 2020

I think I did okay

It has been studied that women speak and act less confidently in comparison to men. I can think of times when I was asked how I did on a test and I said I felt fine about the test but men in my class would boast about how great they thought they had done on the test. This difference between women and men does not appear to be from a lack of confidence in women but instead a double standard between men and women on the acceptable way to exude this confidence. This can be described as a confidence gap. Women have less opportunities to practice confidence when younger, when women are confident, they are told to “tone it down”, and often will be punished in both formal and informal ways for displaying their confidence.

This week’s readings by Zeilinger talked about how Millennial women are not in leadership positions because they feel the pressure to be perfect in order to hold these leadership positions. Women feel pressured to be the perfect women and have it all. However, this pressure to be perfect is a double-edged sword, even if a woman was to reach society’s idea of perfection, she would have to have the confidence to vocalize that she was confident that she had reached perfection. In addition, if women are constantly trying to achieve this idea of perfection how are they supposed to ever feel confident?

The double standard of how society wants men and women to show their confidence can be seen in the reading we had a few weeks ago by Fortini. The article highlighted the two “types” of women leaders, the Bitch and the Ditz. The Bitch described in the article is confident in herself and the credentials that make her a good leader. The term Bitch though is applied to women because of the way she is outwardly confident in herself and her qualifications which is not commonly seen in women because of the confidence gap. The Ditz type of leader describes women who are not as outwardly confident and therefore will divert difficult topics and questions to other people, often times men. The Ditz type is closer to the way society wants women to demonstrate their confidence but not entirely. In my opinion, society wants women to be and feel confident but not let it affect anyone else or their work, creating a type in between the Bitch and the Ditz.

This confidence gap causes more obstacles for women when trying to get jobs. Women more often downplay their successes in comparison to their male counterparts. Although sexism and discrimination are, albeit slowly, leaving the work force these additional, hidden, often psychological differences between men and women created through centuries of oppression still work in favor of the sexist ways of the workplace. What other hidden obstacles may be in the workplace? Does the difference in how confidence is shown in men and women have additional side effects?


  1. Some of the points that you made in this post are so important! I definitely remember being told to “tone it down” when I was younger whenever I was super excited about doing well in something. As I got older and found myself in high school, being overly confident or excited about your abilities was “unattractive.” In college the narrative definitely still exists, however I have found that women are the ones telling themselves – and sometimes other women – that they need to “tone it down.”

    Regarding the workplace, I think there are many obstacles regarding gender that are not even discussed. Since a good majority of higher-level executives are men, they don’t have the same experiences that women do (neither physical nor emotional). Men don’t recognize the obstacles women have had to overcome to get to where they are, and often either tip-toe or bulldoze their way through conversations with women in the workplace. Unfortunately, I have found that many times there are two extremes, the men who are blunt about their beliefs towards women in the work place, and men who don’t want to offend anyone and therefore never challenge their female employees to be the best they can be.

    Confidence in the work place is extremely important, not only in oneself, but in coworkers. While having too much confidence can definitely be viewed as negative, I believe that having a lot of confidence in a coworker is crucial to the success of any business. Whether male or female, it should be understood that a person was hired for a job because they are competent and knowledgeable enough to be successful in that role. However, if there is an imbalance in the amount of confidence present, that is when things go wrong, and blame is thrown around.

  2. I think that this confidence gap has deep roots, in that it perpetuates the idea that women must be modest about their successes, while men do not necessarily have to be. I admit to falling into this practice, for I do not like to outright talk about my accomplishments or share my beliefs on controversial topics unless someone explicitly asks me. However, within the context of a college campus, I can attest to this hidden obstacle being a challenge in the way I present myself in front of other classmates. In particular, a male classmate always asks me how I felt after a test or what grade I got on a test. At times when I told him my grade, and let’s say it was an “A,” he would turn around and leave, when I asked him the same question in return. Also before tests, he would try to psych out my classmates and me by talking negatively about the material. Now, I do not appreciate people who think they know it all, but I realized that by just saying “oh, I did alright,” when I did great on the test, just reaffirmed this person’s ego and allowed him to keep treating me and others in this way. Thus, I have learned in some situations where you can tell competitiveness is coming into play for no good reason, it is good for women to boast about their accomplishments because in a way it can work in your favor to gain respect. In other words, beat the other person at their own game. Does this person feel threatened by my intelligence? I do not know, but I am not going to put up with being degraded by someone who thinks they know it all, when really NO ONE can possibly know everything! Therefore, now when asked how I did on the test, I reply with “great,” that way it subtly shows my competence and does not give the individual the answer he wants to hear. This frustrates me that I feel the need to purposely do this sometimes because I do not like to boast about my accomplishments and be perceived as a “show-off,” but in certain situations, as a woman, I have to in order to gain respect or show others that I know what I am talking about because I have put in the time and effort to study and gain experience in practicing the material.

  3. I have definitely been one to keep quiet when asked about my accomplishments. It makes me think of one of the conversations we had in class, where during in interview you don’t feel comfortable talking about why you are a good fit for the job. This has always been a question that I hated having to answer. Over the years I have applied or tried out for many positions and this is always the question that makes me the most uncomfortable. I know that I have the skills or ability for the position, however, it feels wrong to tell someone that outright. I think this goes back to things as simple as someone asking you how you did on a test and not liking the answer. I remember in high school, and even now when others did better on a test than me it did bother me. I also remember that when I was the one who did better, it bothered my friends. I’m not sure if this is because of our competitive nature in trying to get the GPA needed for college, graduate school, or a good job, but I have seen this trait in almost everyone male and female.

    I think the idea of not promoting yourself is misunderstood in the female mind. Women are expected to show more emotion and be more caring. This results in them feeling that they must look out for others feelings and that they are responsible for keeping others happy. There have been many times when I have told classmates that “I did okay.” on a test or quiz because I did not want to upset them if my score was higher. However, in a class that is hard for you, and you work hard to get a good grade, I think you should be able to celebrate an A on a test or quiz. However, this behavior is viewed as cocky, bragging, and bitchy. No one wants to be around someone who flaunts their success in front of you. However, I have noticed that this is something more common in men. When my male classmates do well, they don’t hesitate to tell me or others. No one seems to think that they are a bitch for doing so. These interactions are later interpreted into the thought that women should keep quiet about their skills and accomplishments, which makes it difficult to promote oneself. As we have discussed in multiple class periods, the solution lies in societal change. Society as a whole must change how we view accomplishments. They should be celebrated for everyone, men and women. Young girls and boys should be taught that it is okay to share with others that they are good at something. Self-confidence should be something that is awarded, not labeled and disapproved of.

    Do you think that this is something that is developed at a young age, or more so in high school, when grades become more competitive? What are other areas where you have seen women hide their skills to not upset or offend others?

  4. This post made me think about men and women in applying for jobs as I have seen this struggle in my friends attempting to get careers and jobs post college graduation. I learned in my psychology classes that women feel they have to meet all the qualifications of a job before they apply for that job, however, men feel they need to only meet half of the qualifications to apply for that same skill. Therefore men feel they are entitled to consideration whereas women feel they have to work much harder and check off everything on the list, striving for perfection, to even be considered. Therefore, I have been pushing my female friends to apply for jobs even if they are missing a preferred qualification because I know they are likely more qualified than the male candidates that are confidently submitting applications for the same positions.

    In response to the previous comment by Dana, I definitely think men and women are taught to think this way in childhood through simple gestures and statements that most parents do subconsciously. For example, statements such as “Boys will be boys” when boys are loud and rambunctious. This gives boys an excuse to speak up over girls whereas girls are normally taught to be prim and proper, almost subdued in their expressions. This translates to adulthood in school and careers. Men feel more confident and justified in their actions while women feel they must be perfect.

    While I definitely think men and women do not necessarily have the same skills, I do not believe there should be a confidence gap. Men and women should honor the beneficial differences in genders and be confident about each others own abilities whether in a group setting or their own career in order to strive for equity in gender.

  5. This post really made me reflect on my own experiences throughout school and how I would respond when someone asked me how I thought I did on an exam. To be honest, when I was younger I would always say I know I did well, but as I got older my confidence absolutely took a turn for the worst, and that never happened to my brother: if anything, my brother’s confidence grew with age. I never realized until now, but my brother was actually a huge reason why my confidence shrank so much when it came to academics. I remember I used to say things like “I killed that exam” and he would immediately respond and say “oh well that means you probably failed.” This really began to take a toll on me, as well as the fact that my brother is incredibly intelligent and would always compare his scores to my own and point out the fact that more often than not, his were higher. So, as time went on, if someone asked me how I did on an exam, I would respond with things like “I don’t know,” “okay,” or “I think I passed.” This is something I still do today, and my brother still boasts about his performance with complete confidence.

    Touching on other hidden obstacles that women may face in the workplace, my mind immediately goes to the Ted Talk we watched at the beginning of the semester, regarding women taking a seat at the table. I definitely think this is still a huge issue for women in the workplace, because although they have earned their seats, they are not confident enough to sit down. Confidence truly does have such a large impact on every stage of development, and many people do not even realize. Lacking confidence not only prevents women from being hired in the first place, but then prevents them from doing their best work and excelling the way they are capable of.

    I think the saddest part to me, and another consequence of the lack of confidence among women, is that when they truly lose this confidence it begins to be reflected in their work. After a while of believing they are only doing “okay” that is exactly how we begin to perform: just okay. I know this to be true with myself. When I feel defeated by a difficult assignment before I even try, I do not put in the necessary effort that I know I am capable of, and this is reflected in my grades. If women do not believe they are going to do something well then they won’t. It reminds of self-fulfilling prophecy, a phenomenon I learned about in a high school psychology class. Basically, if you believe you are going to fail at something, then that is precisely what you are going to do. Based on the studies I analyzed in high school regarding this phenomenon, it was found to be most common among women. Now this goes both ways, if you believe you are going to do something well, then you are more likely to actually do well, but this side of the phenomenon is most common among men (shocker, I know). I do have hope, however, that the more women succeed, the greater confidence will be instilled in all other women for what they are truly capable of.

  6. I really like you term of the confidence gap. What I find the most interesting about the confidence gap is that it is never really talked about in society. It is something that often goes unnoticed. It is an invisible force that is constantly at play in society. It is an internal force that is acting on women at all times, and it is hard to recognize.

    Speaking from personal experience, there is definitely a confidence gap in between men and women. Women are definitely expected to at least appear and act perfect even when they may not be. I never really realized it, but there was a big confidence gap between my older brother and myself. My brother and I are both socially anxious and shy people. We do not like big crowds or interacting with other people much. At parties, it is okay my brother just stands quietly in the corner and only talks when he is talked too. But I am expected to be outgoing and talk to people because I am a woman which means I’m supposed to be relational and effective. I don’t feel this pressure because my parents or family or close friends forced me to and told me that was how I had to act. It is because society as a whole expects women to be kind and relational and conversational.

    I used to think I was a perfectionist and that was why I felt so much pressure on me. I am a perfectionist, but that was not the only pressure that was on me to be perfect. Again, there is the expectation that women have to be perfect at everything they do and can’t make mistakes. While all this pressure is put on women, it is a double standard that is not expected of men either. Another example from my bother and I’s relationships was our physics teacher in high school. My brother was a science and math person. I was not. I was better at writing and the humanities and fine arts. Our brains were wired differently. My brother took physics a few years before me. When I got the same teacher a couple of years laters, she expected me to be just as good if not better than my brother. When I would go and ask for help, she would say, “You’re Drew’s sister. You should know this.” What’s even more of a kicker is the fact that I got a better grade than my brother in physics yet he was the one who went to study physics at UVA. I didn’t even apply to UVA because I didn’t think I was smart enough to get in.

    I think all of these extra societal expectations to be perfect definitely destroy women’s confidence and cause them to downplay their accomplishments and skills. I know at my work in sports broadcasting, all of the men I work with definitely have an ego. They have to be in charge, in control, and think they’re more qualified than everyone else. Most of the girls just quietly show up and do their jobs well. The men take the higher up jobs that get more recognition whereas the women do the behind the scenes jobs that are necessary to get a broadcast up and running.

    The double standard that expects women to be perfect in every aspect of their lives causes them to self-censor themselves. This reminds me of the reading by Lauzen about female film directors. They note that female directors tend to self-select out of particular directing opportunities. They feel like they are facing double standards so they do not want to take on directing roles. I feel like in many professions, if not all, this double standard is too stressful and unrealistic for women to meet so they do this. They do not try for certain positions or opportunities because they know they will be scrutinized more than men.

    I think this confidence gap helps contribute to gender inequality. I think the fact that women have extra expectations of perfection placed upon them keeps them from seeking high positions. Although I do think there are still some subtle sexists forces that keep women from the top, I think an additional side effect of the confidence gap is that women self-select out of higher profile jobs which perpetuates gender inequality.

    I think this confidence gap is something that is engrained into us at a very young age. It is something we are unintentionally taught without even realizing it. It is something that is fundamental in are socially constructed society. When we are raised in this society, we inherently learn these unrealistic expectations of perfection and double standards.

  7. When reading this post I really resonated with a lot of the points that you made. Using your test example, whenever anyone asks me how I did on a test it is my default answer to always say I’m not sure how it went, even if I know I did really well. I think part of why I do this is to avoid being ridiculed if I do not get a perfect score. If I say I did well and it turns out I didn’t, that’s more of an opportunity for others to call me out on my imperfections.
    I’ve always just kind of accepted that I am by nature not a confident person, but never thought that it would be related to gender. The term confidence gap is a new one to me but I thought made a lot of sense. I do feel that men and women are conditioned starting at a young age to display confidence differently. Whether it’s in a school setting or within my family, the dynamic has always been that men are the funny, talkative, confident one’s that people are more drawn too. The classic stereotype of the “class clown” who is the center of attention and is this confident, goofy character almost always takes the form of a man whether in depictions or real life. Women play more of the supporting role in egging on the man’s ego and laughing or saying comments of support when the man is talking.
    One clear example that came to my mind when thinking of where I experience the confidence gap the most is in the context of doing group-work in school. Both and high school and now, I noticed that if there are men and women in the group, I almost always wait for the men to talk first because that’s just what I expect to happen. I am more hesitant to express any ideas I may have for fear of them not being good enough and getting shot down. However, if I am in a group with all females I am more likely to speak without being prompted and offer ideas with less fear of ridicule. Going along with the idea that women have to strive more towards perfection than men to be seen as successful, I have noticed that it is more common for women to try harder and put more time and effort in than men to get the work done. I also feel like it is more widely accepted for men to get away with not pulling as much weight within the group than it is for a woman.
    Thinking back to class about when the question was posed as to whether or not we have different expectations for women and men leaders, I am definitely guilty of doing this in relation to confidence and ego. Over-the-top confidence and charisma is something I think I’ve been trained to expect from male leaders, but when women engage in similar behavior, it almost feels uncomfortable. I either see them as being “too much” and kind of arrogant or as trying too hard. I hadn’t really thought much about this until this class and I realized that I definitely do hold an unconscious bias which is something I am working on deconstructing. This idea of the confidence gap and holding different expectations for men and women when it comes to displaying confidence is definitely prevalent in our society both in the work place and in other social settings.

  8. Your post made me realize that it hadn’t occurred to me how often I have downplayed major successes. One of my supervisors is a man and while working under him he has told me multiple times, interrupting a comment I might be making, that I “don’t need to qualify things.” Every time I think to myself that I am not doing that for him, and that is simply the way I talk, even if that is because of my social conditioning as a woman. It hadn’t occurred to me that maybe I am qualifying my experience to not sound like I am bragging or boasting about my own accomplishments.
    In contrast to a man I work with, this pattern of speech and qualification seems almost comical. He will talk about his experiences as if they are the be all end all, without a second thought. When I’m unsure of how to do something at work, I ask someone to help me figure it out. He just tries whatever he thinks is best, which not unsurprisingly, doesn’t always work out.
    I wonder how much of this confidence gap you mentioned plays a role in hiring biases. I would imagine that as an employer, a certain level of confidence in their ability is more appealing than uncertainty or even someone who is very humble. Do you think this plays into hiring biases? And how does this confidence gap influence women of color or of other marginalized statuses? I can only assume that the gap widens

  9. Hi, Delaney! I really liked your post and I’d like to elaborate more on some of the things you mentioned.

    First, I disagree with you that there is no difference in the amount of confidence felt between a man and a woman. I think there is a difference in how confident we as women can feel in comparison to men due to the “effortless perfection” standard. As our readings from last Thursday and today mention, there is an expectation placed on women to be absolutely perfect in everything they do (Zeilinger, Keohane, Wilson). They are encouraged and feel they should not speak unless they are able to articulate the most accurate information possible (Wilson). Thus, I think this high standard expectation placed on women to be perfect makes them feel less confident in themselves when speaking. Men, in contrast, are shown that they can speak without consequence and that their actions have little to no effect on them (Zeilinger). There’s no pressure on them, according to our readings, to get everything right. They can have a second chance and no one will care. This enables them to feel confident because they won’t feel the consequences or mistakes that result from their actions. Thus, I think there is a difference between the confidence felt between a man and a woman.

    The difference in confidence exuded between the Bitch and the Ditz is due to the double bind. The Bitch’s competence makes her come off as too confident and assertive. She may begin to feel less confident due to her colleagues dragging her down. The Ditz’s warmness makes her come off as less competent. I think she can still be confident, but it maybe through different dimensions of leadership, such as emotional intelligence.

    I find the difference in the confidence gap between the Bitch and the Ditz interesting. Particularly, I think it’s important to point out that sometimes women can be forced to play the Ditz. I think the Ditz stereotype often makes us think that these women are dumb. Being stereotyped as the Ditz may make women feel as if they need to be less confident in their answers to hard questions, such as how Sarah Palin may have felt. It may not be due to lack of competence, but simply because there is an expectation that they play dumb. Thus, people will see them as dumb and less confident because they are being pressured to meet an expectation of dumb (don’t want to come off as too competent or “the expert”).

    Other obstacles in the work place that affect hiring decisions for women involve the beauty bias (I wrote a paper on this in my psychology research methods class!!!). The beauty bias states that someone is more likely to gain or acquire a more favorable position due to their physical attractiveness. In the past, research has shown that women are at a disadvantage for leadership positions in the workplace due to this bias. For example, one study has shown that physical attractiveness (beauty bias) only helps women who are being considered for non-managerial positions. For managerial positions, these women are at a disadvantage compared to less typically attractive women. In all other cases, however, including for men, being more physically attractive usually helps people get a job. It’s only in the case of an attractive female pursuing a management (leadership) position that beauty bias puts them at an unfair disadvantage.

  10. This confidence gap is truly one that I believe hits home with a lot of us in this class, and women in general. Maybe it is an instilled lack of self-confidence and low self-esteem due to the pressures of beauty and societal standards (as evidenced in our reading from last week). Maybe it is also due to the social disparity between men and women, and the expectations put on each of us to not be boastful or proud or self-promoting, such as the double bind. The boxes that women are put into and stereotyped from only does more harm than good, yet the media continually places women against each other. Especially in the workforce or the political sphere, women are constantly in competition with each other, and we are known to put each other down as well as ourselves. Studies have shown that men have much more confidence in areas that they shouldn’t be as confident in, while women continually doubt themselves, even if they are extremely qualified. This can cause us to go down a slippery slope of not being hired for jobs, promoted in the workplace, or being seen as equals to our male, perhaps even lesser-qualified counterparts. Thus, this exacerbates the dilemma of too few women in positions of high leadership. This cycle is perpetuated by self-deprecation and a feeling of inequality. Therefore, by instilling values of high self-esteem and eliminating these feelings of inadequacy in both boys and girls at a young age, we may be able to combat them as we raise the next generation of leaders.

  11. Reading this post and the comments also made me really reflect not only on my own self-confidence journey but has also made me reflect on the things that I perceive or think about other women’s confidence from what I’ve seen. The biggest thing that I have seen as well something that has been discussed in previous comments is the double edged sword of confidence. When women talk about confidence there really is no winning.

    When a women lacks self confidence and states this aloud or it can be seen in her actions and such, many times one of the most common things that are said to them is that they should be more confident. However, then comes the other side of the sword. When a women displays a lot of confidence again either verbally or physically, it can elicit emotions of jealousy from the women around her and she could be perceived as being self-indulgent or egotistical. Therefore, women as a whole are less likely to talk about this subject all together.

    In my own personal experience, I think that we are taught this lack of confidence from a very young age, and told that if we talk too much about our accomplishments then its a sense of bragging and putting down your fellow classmates. However, I think that there is a way to go about talking about and being proud of our accomplishments in a way that would not be this way at all. From a young age, my mom would always tell me and my sister to be proud of who I was and the things that I was able to achieve, however whenever we would be braggy or the things we would say would be demeaning to any one else, such as when we would say “oh that test was so easy”, she would remind us that we can only speak for ourselves and our perspective. I think that this mindset helped me in some sense of my confidence because I was able to speak about it in a different/acceptable way.

  12. After reading the article my initial question was” why can’t women just be awesome?’ and then i read further that women are scrutinized for it. This brought my thought back to the ted talk we watched at the beginning of the semester when the woman and her brother took a test and he felt confident about it while she was anxious and questioned if she got a good grade or not. and how in class professor said that men will apply for a job if they have at least one of the requirements of it and women are hesitant to apply if they don’t have all of them. Years of perpetuating feminine stereotypes has widened the confidence gap. Women sadly have to pass irrelevant standards set by society before they are even considered for anything. Personally, i don’t apply for jobs if i don’t meet all of the qualifications, but i will still apply if i have a majority of them. In terms of “tooting my own horn” my mom taught me a great lesson. After my basketball games when i was younger after people would tell me “good game” i would say “i know” and not thank you. My mom popped me in the mouth every time i said that and i believe that is why i am so humble today. And if my mom didn’t do that, I think i would have had more of an “i’m awesome” mindset. Confidence doesn’t have to verbal either, it can be gained in the work you do and the results you see and know you can achieve. I think it doesn’t necessarily have to be about speaking on your abilities. It’s cliché but actions are louder than words and if someone doesn’t acknowledge the action then that would be ignorance at its finest.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: