How Do We Close The Confidence Gap Between Men and Women?

The MTQ48 Mental Toughness framework comprises the 4C’s of Control, Commitment, Challenge and Confidence. Whilst mental toughness as a personality trait is gender neutral, in our studies in Australia women are stronger on Control and Commitment and men are stronger on Challenge and Confidence. I still find the gap in confidence levels between men and women bewildering and so was interested to read this recent article by Margie Warrell from Forbes magazine which also detailed some striking global research by Wiebke Bleidorn from the University of California.


Four years ago I moved from the U.S. to Australia and began from ground zero building my business. Having spent the previous decade coaching female executives, I was curious to see how the cultural differences between countries played out for women in the workplace.

Since then numerous people have asked me about the differences business women face in Australia versus America. While it’s my observation that misogyny is more prevalent in Australia and there is a greater appetite for risk and tolerance of failure in the U.S., over all I’ve seen women wrestle with the same lack of confidence in both countries. In fact, wherever I’ve worked in the world, I’ve consistently that a fundamental lack of belief in our own value, worth and ability to achieve consistently tempers female ambition and holds women back.

Until now though, I’ve never seen any research to back up my own anecdotal experience. However, a recent study by Wiebke Bleidorn, Ph.D., from the University of California, reported in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, has found that the disparity in belief between men and women isn’t just in the U.S. or Australia, it’s universal.

The eight-year study by Bleidorn her co-researchers analyzed data from over 985,000 men and women across 48 countries, from Norway to New Zealand, Kuwait to South Korea, asking them to rate the phrase: “I see myself as someone who has high self-esteem study found that across the board – regardless of culture or country, men have higher self-esteem than women.”

“We were really surprised by the remarkable degree of similarity across cultures,” said Bleidorn

“In nearly all cultures, men have higher self-esteem. But the difference lies in the magnitude of the gap.” In industrialized Western countries like the U.S. and Australia the gap is more pronounced than in non-Western, developing countries. That is, the gap between how little women think of themselves compared to how highly men do grows in the more developed, egalitarian, countries – the very ones one might expect it to be the least.

While the scope of Bleidorn’s research didn’t include finding the answers to this finding, she had some theories. Firstly, that part of the universal confidence gap may be explained by our biology. That is, we’re simply hardwired differently. “Most personality traits have a genetic basis, so there’s reason to assume it might be at least partly genetically driven,” Bleidorn said. “But you don’t measure people’s physiology to get their self-esteem — you just ask them. So we don’t know.” Read More.. 

Source: Forbes

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