Arnold Kling  

Confirmation for Baumeister's Gender Analysis?

The Great Okun's Law Violation... Of Bunk and Economics...

From the Harvard Business Review blog:

Men were more confident across all age groups, with 70% of males having high or very high levels of self-confidence, compared to 50% of the women surveyed. Half of women managers admitted to feelings of self-doubt about their performance and career, but only 31% of men reported the same.

Read the whole thing. It also talks about women tending to want to blend in rather than to stand out.

What I wonder is how stable these preferences will prove to be. I mean, after you have been embedded for a while in a culture that rewards one type of behavior more than another, that might start to matter more than some innate genetic tendencies. If enough women read the HBR blog and choose to change their behavior, then the evolutionary psych stuff will stop being predictive, won't it?

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COMMENTS (8 to date)
Becky Hargrove writes:

I think the key phrase was cultural reward, as that is rapidly changing. Today, when a woman 'goes with the program' that does not necessarily mean survival. However, the flip side is being able to pursue intellectual and social challenges without feeling as though one is shortchanging other areas of their life.

Dianne writes:

It's amazing how socialization and gender roles can have such an impact on behavior.
I guess a positive side to this news is that the women will make less reckless decisions since they are second guessing themselves. Overconfidence can cause a business to fall fast.

Andreas Moser writes:

That might contribute to an explanation of the gender wage gap:

Brittany Miller writes:

Enduring decades of gender roles and cultural stereotypes takes its toll on the mind. The general description we get from the media is that males are the more dominant ones and females are submissive. Music, films, television and various other types of media constantly ingrain beliefs into us and the people surrounding us. The fact that only 50% of females feel confident about themselves and their work is a glaring issue. How does something like this happen while men have comparably high levels? The media and socioeconomic roles are to blame for the majority of the imbalances. Women and young girls are flooded with things telling them that they have to look, act, be a certain way in order to be accepted or deemed attractive. Being any other way but the accepted is a breech of those roles and you are no longer considered attractive or interesting. Men however do not feel the pressure from numerous commercials advertising anti-aging products for men or flashing scantily clad male bodies in order to garner interest for a movie/television show. Women however are taught from a certain age that they are only valued when they meet certain criteria, if they are deemed attractive by males.

Confidence has nothing to do with ingrained mental disparities between women and men. It is the sole product of years upon years of gender roles and media influence that promotes youthfulness and beauty above all else. Powerful women are few and far between, and even rarer are powerful women who are also respected.

GU writes:

Given that this is survey data, perhaps women are more likely to admit their feelings of insecurity, rather than their actually feeling significantly more insecure.

Men are rewarded for publicly signalling confidence, while many find it endearing when women publicly express self-doubt. Perhaps men are incentivized to be over-confident (at least outwardly)?

ps I don't think Baumeister's hypothesis is crazy, I'm just raising some potential doubts.

fawful writes:

But if women adjust their behavior based on this news, won't men adjust as well?

I'm doubtful that the present situation will change. Contrary to what feminists claim, we have a culture that praises "butt-kicking babes" far more than wilting violets.

caryatis writes:

I'm wondering how self-reported feelings of confidence translate into behavior. Women are to some extent _expected_ to be insecure, or at least not expected to have above average confidence.

So maybe women who report average confidence are actually acting the same as men who report high confidence.

Arthur_500 writes:

Men and women may be equal but they are not the same. Men may be confident in their decisions but it is women who read roadmaps...

I have heard all the reasons why women are women and men are men and I admit I fail to put much in them. Walter Mitty might suggest that women are quite willing and capable of being assertive.

Certainly there are societal norms. These norms do value handsome men and women. If men can be less than handsome and still be successful then I fail to believe that women must all be super-models. In addition, in a day and age when men and women all have the opportunity to 'accessorize,' women do it willingly and men generally do not. In other words, women find certain looks personally appealing and they aren't just trying to please men.

Women have been increasing in the workforce since the 1940's. While societal norms and stereotypes have been problematic over the years we have always seen excellence in the workplace from many women. Since the 1980's there has been an explosion of women in the workplace.

The main problem for women in the workplace has been a perception of competence. This perception has a lot of basis in the failure of many women to perform to the same standard as a man. A man might get fired while a woman might retain her position due to concerns of legal action. In other words, regulations have forced companies to hire women into roles they are unwilling or unprepared to handle. They then remain at their highest level of incompetence.

There is a great deal of evidence that this situation has been changing. The evolution of changing roles in the society continues in the workplace. As more women enter the workplace there are more role models showing excellence. Women aspire to those role models and the overall competence increases.

As time progresses we have excellent, competent women performing as well as any man. We have seen this in heavy equipment operators as well as the office. These women are accepted and they are just as confident as their male counterparts.

So why do they remain 'different?' Maybe women are indeed hard-wired differently. A man wants a firearm while a woman wants a pink one. A man wears outdoor clothes while a woman wants to look good doing it.

I am willing to accept that all are created equal however, equality does not mean that everyone is the same. I think we will continue to see that men and women are different and no matter of integration and equality will make them the same.

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