Are Women Less Self-Confident Than Men?

There are plenty of studies that look into reasons why there are only few women leaders and even less in the C level of corporations. One of the theory around such low numbers argues that women are less self confident than men in the workplace.

I think that women are perceived less self-confident than men because we ask them to fit into a current business model that is not designed for them or around them. We ask women to practice power poses, to act as if they feel confident and powerful. We keep asking women to act like men if they want to make it to the top level. We pressure their personality to match their role. The problem is that by ‘acting the role’, those around them feel and perceive lack of confidence.

I believe that this has nothing to do with confidence and leadership. This is perpetuating the old cultural habit that wants women to fit in, to comply, to conform before they are granted access or if they want to be acknowledged.
I do not believe women lack confidence in general. Instead I believe that is normal to feel not confident in a foreign, at times hostile, environment. It is normal to feel not confident playing or acting as a men when you are a woman. Especially if after you are labeled as unfeminine; or deemed too meek for top jobs.

Confidence is the state of being certain that what we think or believe is correct. Self-confidence is therefore believing and trusting one’s self. How can one trust and believe when asked to act something she is not? I personally would not feel confident. I would instead feel a fraud and I would continue feeling in such a way despite any advice or coaching for not feeling so. This is not because I doubt my competences or I do not take risks. It is because I am asked to be in-authentic. I am asked to dis-own my true nature and beliefs.

Humans naturally and instinctively follow confidence. Confidence is what we look for in a leader and much of the current business model has been defined by men. Hence, it is not surprising that more men lead governments and corporations as they play more confidently in their playground. What would happen if we would ask men to play by the rules of women?

Would they show the same confidence? I am not advocating to dismiss any men or cancel all the rules so far established. However, it is time to stop telling women that they lack this or that and that they need to do more to become leaders. I believe in authentic leadership which is not gender based rather manifested and built through honesty and openness. Are we open enough to create that space for women to define what leadership is to them without advocating for “act like”?

True authentic leadership is founded on trust. If we want authentic leaders representing our countries and guiding our corporations we must create an environment that fosters:self-awareness and a genuine expression of both strength and limitations; mission and values cantered organisations rather than power and ego driven old boys club; integration of heart and mind.

A true inclusive environment nurtures individuals and does not ask them to act. An environment in which all individuals feel empowered to express their opinions, their emotions, their whole authentic self. It is this capacity to reveal the true selves that generates credibility and trust.

Perhaps if all of us, regardless of gender, would be asked to show up as unique, authentic selves it would create a collective business model that integrates diverse perspectives, and gives rise to the existence of the pillar of stability – authenticity.

About Fateme Banishoeib

Fateme is the founder at Understand Diversity 2 B Inclusive. Her work in the Bio-Pharma industry over the past 15 years has led her from R&D to operations to strategic planning. The work she has grown to love most is helping organisations change from the inside out. She can be found at  or on Twitter @FBanishoeib

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