Are Women Held Back By a Lack of Confidence?

While anyone is susceptible to experiencing low self-confidence, women seem to be particularly affected. According to a Business News Daily article titled, “5 Confidence Killers for Women (and How to Slay Them)”, Helene Lerner, founder of, surveyed women and discovered that many women wait until they they feel 100 percent confident in themselves before making a career move. According to article author Nicole Fallon, “However, waiting for this moment of ‘capital-C Confidence’ usually means that the window of opportunity passes women by.”

Helene Lerner says “We hold ourselves back from valuable opportunities if we wait for everything to line up and to have all our skills in place. Women have to redefine confidence and understand that courage is the main ingredient for success for achieving their goals.”

So what causes people to have poor self-confidence? The most prominent cause of poor self-confidence is due to our negativity bias. As a survival mechanism, the human brain evolved to easily identify threats. This means we are hyper-sensitive and more reactive to feelings of threat, even when these threats don’t actually exist. We react to bad things more quickly, strongly and persistently than good things and unfortunately, this natural habit is extremely damaging to self-confidence. By focusing too much on the negative, you are reinforcing low confidence.

But what causes women specifically to feel less confident? According to TRACOM’s Research and Development team, “Research supports that there is a gender gap in confidence, which may have a biological basis. There is a gender divide with regard to testosterone – men have more of it, which leads to greater risk-taking and sense of dominance. Consequently, men tend to overestimate their abilities by approximately 30% while women underestimate their abilities.[i] And, women are almost twice as likely to suffer from depression and trait anxiety[ii] and are more likely to ruminate over their inability to cope[iii]. At TRACOM, our data confirms this trend across genders. For example, women score lower on self-assurance and self-composure compared to men. According to Kay and Shipman, confidence is more predictive of career success than competence, so this is a serious issue that we need to remedy.”

Listed below are the top 5 things that respondents of the Helene Lerner’s survey identified as hazardous to their self-confidence at work.

  • 55% say perfectionism – “We have to stop the negative chatter and tell ourselves, ‘Our best is good enough,'” Lerner said. “Make it an inner mantra.”
  • 54% say micromanager bosses.
  • 49% say disengagement at work. Article author Nicole Fallon writes “One of the most common reasons for feeling disconnected from your job — and therefore, lacking confidence in it — is doing work that doesn’t leverage your skills. Everyone has talents and abilities, and if your job is not using them, you may want to start investigating other opportunities, Lerner suggested.”
  • 48% say fear of failure.
  • 46% say uncooperative or critical colleagues.

According to the article, “Lerner says that women who want to beat these ‘confidence killers’ and advance their careers need to take risks that enable them to accomplish their goals, even if they don’t feel ready to do so… Most importantly, women need to continually assess what’s hurting their confidence and actively work to overcome their personal hurdles.

‘Self-awareness is huge,’ Lerner told Business News Daily. ‘Just knowing what drains your confidence is a big step forward.’”

Many people struggle with confidence issues both at work and in their personal lives. Self-Confidence is one of the main elements of TRACOM’s Behavioral EQ Model. Self-Confidence refers to the feelings associated with self-worth and personal competence. It is an indicator of the confidence a person feels in their knowledge and abilities, and their ability to convey this confidence to others. People with high Self-Confidence are seen by others as self-assured and responsible. They are able to step out of their comfort zones and embrace new challenges.