I regularly think about why Keystone Women is only for women. I believe that a holistic approach is not just for women, it is for everyone.

However, we do not live in a world where women are made to be recognised for our worth. Recent case in point when Gerwig was not nominated for best director, but was named alongside her husband, Noah Baumbach, for best adapted screenplay while Robbie lost out on a best actress nomination but was recognised for best picture as a producer.

The dangers of overconfidence.

Gender difference in estimated abilities seems to be quite common. Among male respondents of the YouGov survey, 20% felt ‘very confident’ and 26% ‘somewhat confident’ they could safely land a passenger plane with air traffic control’s guidance. Yup, the confidence levels rise to nearly 50% when you just consider men.  Men are 34% more likely than women to be employed in top jobs at age 42 with overconfidence explaining up to 11% of the gender gap, on average, for full-time workers.

The available evidence strongly suggests that men tend to be more overconfident than women. For example, men exhibit more overconfidence than women in academic achievement (Bengtsson et al., 2005), finance and trading (Cueva et al., 2019; Prince, 1993), conflict and competitions (Johnson et al., 2006; Niederle & Vesterlund, 2007), science and mathematics (Ehrlinger & Dunning, 2003; Hyde et al., 1990), past performance (Reuben et al., 2012), intelligence (Steinmayr & Spinath, 2009), and on general knowledge and cognitive tasks (O’Laughlin & Brubaker, 1998; Pallier, 2003). By way of example, in one study, 70% of men and 30% of women, overestimated their work performance and professional skills (Lindeman et al., 1995). While under-confidence is generally the exception, it is more often women than men who err on the side of excessive humility (Lenney, 1977; Small et al., 2007), underestimating their chances of success across various outcomes (Erkut, 1983; Mura, 1987). Even successful women are more likely to attribute their triumphs to external causes, such as others in their team, or luck, rather than to personal aptitude (Campbell & Hackett, 1986; Haynes & Heilman, 2013; LaNoue & Curtis, 1985). To read more on the subject, go to The Cocksure Conundrum: How Evolution Created a Gendered Currency of Corporate Overconfidence.  They conclude the article with this;

Perhaps one way forward is to take a page from organizations that operate in lower mobility cultures, where cheater-detection strategies are more closely attuned to those that likely existed in ancestral environments. For example, corporations in Japan tend to hold groups rather than individuals responsible for mistakes (Menon et al., 1999), and also expect leaders to take the blame for errors made throughout their organizations (Zemba et al., 2006). Such accountability lowers the incentives for individuals to benefit in ways that harm the collective. If cultures of collective responsibility were effective in our ancestral past, they may continue to act as effective deterrents in our present as well. Alternatively, selecting more women for leadership positions may also help solve this particular problem.

Learning to become overconfident is not the answer.

I get the appeal of becoming overconfident-  in situations where the potential gains of overconfidence outweigh the potential risks of overclaiming, overconfident individuals may have an advantage. As the above articulates, there are many areas of life where overconfidence gets you ahead in some way. I sill do not believe that acquiring the skill of overconfidence is the solution to the challenges women face in a world that often undervalues their contributions. Overconfidence, while superficially appearing as a tool for empowerment, carries inherent risks and pitfalls.

Overconfidence, as a cognitive bias, involves an excessive belief in one’s abilities or judgments, often leading to a tendency to underestimate risks and overestimate one’s own competence. This mindset can have detrimental consequences, both personally and professionally. It might result in poor decision-making, as individuals may overlook crucial information or fail to adequately assess the potential pitfalls of a situation.

In the context of gender equality, promoting overconfidence as a remedy for the existing disparities is problematic. Encouraging women to adopt overconfidence as a coping mechanism perpetuates the idea that conforming to traditionally masculine traits is the only path to success. This not only reinforces gender stereotypes but also undermines the value of diverse approaches and perspectives.  Studies have also found that more assertive women (though not men) often encounter a “backlash effect” in the form of negative social evaluations (Babcock et al., 2003; Rudman, 1998).

Fostering overconfidence does not address the root causes of gender inequality. It merely suggests that women should adapt to an inherently biased system rather than challenging and reshaping that system. True empowerment lies in dismantling systemic barriers and promoting an inclusive environment that values individuals for their skills, talents, and contributions, irrespective of gender.

Instead of encouraging overconfidence, a more constructive approach involves advocating for humility—a balanced acknowledgment of one’s strengths and limitations. Humility promotes continuous learning, openness to feedback, and collaboration, fostering an environment where individuals can thrive authentically and contribute meaningfully. By challenging societal norms and promoting genuine inclusivity, we can work towards a more equitable and supportive world for everyone.

I know many folk say fu&*@ humility but I disagree. Humility doesn’t mean lacking confidence altogether but rather having a realistic and balanced view of your abilities and understanding that no one is infallible. It’s an invitation to self-awareness, understanding that in our talents lies the beauty of our imperfections. This realistic perspective can help us navigate the complex journey of life with grace and a genuine understanding of ourselves.

I’m confident being humble.

I am not saying don’t be confident but let your confidence come from substance. Success often comes from taking risks and stretching ourselves to the limits of our abilities or beyond. You earn it and yes you should display confidence in yourself, that way you will inspire confidence in others. You are more likely to be believed, trusted and promoted if you express your views confidently. I believe you can be confident and humble. I appreciate there are many people who think it is bad to be humble. That it somehow means you lack confidence, but humility, when properly understood, involves a realistic assessment of one’s abilities and a willingness to learn from others. I am personally underwhelmed by the overconfident person’s unwarranted certainty which often leads to a resistance to change. They get stuck, so self assured in their thinking and making mistakes are just not possible as it would undermine their perceived competence.

Pride makes us artificial and humility makes us real.

– Thomas Merton

Would love to hear your thoughts on this. How confident to do you feel to be humble?

Side note- when I looked up overconfident images of men and overconfident women, this a selection of what I got.

Says so much. Apparently overconfident women are often pregnant, do yoga, looked confused or hyper sexual.

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