Is the Confidence Gap Real?

And one day she discovered that she was fierce, and strong, and full of fire, and that not even she could hold herself back because her passion burned brighter than her fears.

Mark Anthony

This journey continues fueled by my passion for equity and Inclusion. For women and men to increase the benefit of each genders strengths.

I continue to be encouraged and feel lots of support for this blog and ever so grateful that you continue to choose to invest your precious time reading. I also am humbled when people share that these messages are helping them through what ever they are facing, and I didn’t even know they knew about this blog or my daily positive messages. It is heart warming because my desire is to help us all not only thrive, but bring conversations to the forefront as well as try to bring a bit more joy and happiness into peoples lives. Like, Comment, Share and Follow me for positive daily messages.

My Personal Confidence

In my prior post “Business School isn’t for Girls”, I promised a post on the topic of the Confidence Gap. Lately this has come under some debate whether this, in fact, truly exists.

When I heard about this being controversial, it moved this up in the queue of topics I would write about.

When I was a kid, I never seemed to lack confidence in my abilities. I would put in the hard work, was extremely curious and had intrinsic belief that I really could do anything I wanted to. It wasn’t until my last year in High School that my confidence was truly tested. I almost fell prey to someone else’s view of my potential.

With the help of my amazing mum, I was restored in my confidence.

I continued to believe anyone could achieve what they set out to do. It would take hard work, resilience and courage.

Whether in my early career or later when life through me curve balls and the universe seemed to be laughing at me, I still kept confident and determined, and stubborn to believe I would succeed.

My first experience on addressing a pay gap

While pursuing my undergraduate degree, I worked at a bank, part time in the semester and full time at breaks. (This girl had to pay for books, as my academic scholarships didn’t include this).

There were two guys my age, also pursuing their undergraduate degree, in my department. I was working an end to end process in mortgages, all to do with the processing post loan approval to create attorney packages, running validation tapes and setting up loans. I also made time to learn more and more of the entire loan process. I worked hard, found more and more efficiencies to free up capacity and worked with high quality to all my assignments.

The guys worked one part of the process, that prepped the loan documents for the underwriter and then ran the tapes (for the payment). They had lots of time to joke around and make connections, especially with the boss.

So when we went through the annual process for review and increases, I was not very pleased when I found out that they received $.50 more an hour than I did. (They told me their raise 🤦‍♀️)

You may think that the gap was really small and not much to worry about. In the late 80’s, at my age, contribution and my self worth, I thought is wasn’t right. So to the bosses office I went, gave him a what for, and got the additional amount that closed the gap.

I didn’t handle it with maturity, grace or even emotional intelligence. I handled it with confidence, grit and in a fact based way, just not very pleasant for the boss 😉. I didn’t even know that this was a pay gap issue based on gender, and I am still not sure it was intentional. However, there was a bias, perhaps that they spent time forming a relationship that was both business and personal. Lesson #1: relationships matter in your career growth.

What I experience in mentoring and coaching emerging women

All these many years later, I realize I was an outlier, in terms of confidence. This was a startling revelation.

As I began to coach emerging women and giving back to them, the one common thing we work on is confidence in themselves. They think they can’t achieve their goals or they hesitate based on how they see themselves. We can’t move on until we address this, look the beast holding them back in they eyes and connect them with a supportive group that reinforces their growth in confidence. There are so many forces working to minimize their confidence in breaking through, and until they can be confident to speak up and advocate for their worth, they will experience many gaps, especially pay.

Some themes that drive their lack of confidence:

Men ask for increases, women in general do not, feeling that they are grateful and lucky for having their current role. They believe their hard work and outcomes will put them on the radar for advancement.

The studies show that women look to have 100% of the requirements for a job posting, and men apply with only 60%. Men aren’t worried about a no, they just want to get up to bat. This is why I believe we have a gap in the pipeline of talented women and generally a pay gap between men and women.

Some types of things holding women back:

– they were brought up to be demure and not challenged to break the mold

– they were brought up in a culture where men are successful as head of household, women are subordinate to them

– they downplay their capabilities, so as not to be seen as a boastful person

– they worry and second guess themselves

– they don’t get encouragement and celebrated for speaking up and being bold

– they are in a traditional family or marriage, where their family or spouse do not support them in building a career, they are encouraged to raise a family and if they do work, it is in a role where their career won’t interfere with the traditional role.

There are others reasons, of course, what are some you have experienced?

How men can help

I now recognize how amazing my male bosses were as they did take me under their wing. They gave me opportunities to learn, grow in my experience and skills, as well as, add value in any area that would help me grown my career. When I failed, they picked me up, dusted me off and encouraged me to get back in there. Today I like to think of this as “failing forward”.

So guys, here are some things that will aid you in being an awesome leader, forged in equity and inclusion. You can help women gain confidence by being aware of how women show up.

A few tips:

– You can ensure that they know they can discuss raises, opportunities, leadership and investment in their careers.

– you can help them learn how to gain influence in supporting the Strategy or Business Outcomes.

– You can help them be succinct in their communication and get to the point quickly (I am continually working on this).

– You can invest in their development on how to succeed in the culture and how to navigate upward in the organization.

– You can coach them on how to build a network and establish key relationships.

– Have HR proactively review the compensation of all your employees in a gender blind analysis, ensuring pay equity.

– Ask women what they truly desire in their careers and then help them get there, just like you would a male.

– Teach women how to gain confidence and remind them that doing great work doesn’t, by itself, equal promotion and increased pay.

If your not asking, they are most likely not going to bring it up.

Final thoughts

Here’s the thing, I am not convinced that the pay gap isn’t a result of the confidence gap.

What I have learned from my male colleagues is that in confidence you ask for raises, investment in your career, introductions to leaders higher in the organization than you, you build a network of mutual benefit and you ask for what you want.

In my entire career as a leader, I have only had one (1) female direct report ask for a salary raise based on her research and value proposition.

This not only made me excited, it also highlighted a blind spot. If men asked me regularly for raises, choice assignments and continually advocated for themselves, why weren’t the women?

Lesson #2: We all have unconscious bias, that we discover in those V8 moments.

This opened a new frontier in my leadership by opening up dialogue proactively with women I lead, mentor and coach and let them know that this was not only acceptable, it was also expected.

DO NOT let anyone steal your dreams, hold you back or create a narrative that erodes your confidence and self worth. Only you can value yourself.

Shine Brightly!


Published by Samantha

I am a fierce advocate for women, and men, especially in business. I want you bright wonderfully talented people to find your voice, be confident and change the system from within.

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