Researchers Found the Moment When Women Reach Peak Career Confidence (And It May Surprise You)

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May 19, 2024 at 8:51AM UTC

Are women really less confident than men in professional settings? New research says “sometimes.”

Corporate research conducted by Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman suggests that the largest difference in self-reported confidence between the genders occurs in workers under the age of 25. 

In a survey of over 3,000 men and 4,000 women, researchers found that just 30 percent of female responders age 25 or younger rated themselves as confident. Meanwhile, 50 percent of their male peers self-assess as confident. 

The confidence gap appears to disappear by age 40, when men and women rate themselves as equally confident. Then, by age 60, women rate themselves as more confident than men on average.

The researchers posit that young women are more competent than they believe, while their male peers are overconfident in their abilities. However, over time, women are reassured of their competency — especially as leaders — because they tend to outperform their male peers. 

However, the authors are careful to note that their conclusions contradict common thinking around confidence in the workplace. While some studies suggest that the early career confidence gap is a myth and that women are less confident in senior-level roles, Zenger and Folkman’s research suggests this isn’t the case. Instead, it seems that young women are held back by society’s whisper in their ear that they aren’t good enough, while older women are held back by the belief that they aren’t confident. 

So you’re telling me, yet again, that gender inequality isn’t the fault of individual women? Well, I’ll be. 

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