When I read sweeping research claims I do tend to take them with a pinch of salt. Here’s one ‘Women don’t apply for jobs unless 100% qualified and men will apply when they have only 60% of what’s required’
I first read this in Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In with a raised eyebrow and I thought it was complete rubbish. Then I started to notice more. I spotted more women saying no to opportunities. Not going for the promotion. Not taking on the new project. Not stepping up. I heard the same clichés ‘I don’t think I can do it’ ‘I’m not qualified’ ‘So-and-so is better than me’ and ‘So-and-so deserves it’
I started quoting the 100% qualified vs 60% qualified research to them and asked them to prove it to be false by going for the promotion and taking the opportunities that they wanted and deserved.
Many did, and in the discussion about why they could and should step up, everyone revealed an inner dialogue that they’d had to overcome. Each person had their own name for it. The ‘official’ term is Imposter Syndrome, but amongst others, I met Jiminy Cricket, the little voice on my shoulder, ‘bad <insert persons name>’, devil’s advocate and my inner critic. The list was long.
For most of us (I have one too) the inner voice is like an old friend that sucks the fun and possibility out of your dreams and leaves you with a feeling of woeful uneasiness that if you get too big for your boots and put yourself out there you are going to ‘get found out’. Or worst still something bad will happen to pay you back for being greedy and wanting too much.
The little voice nags away, becomes louder, more insistent, more toxic until you just want to stick firmly with what you know because then you are safe and nothing bad will happen.
I disagree that the critical voice is just the territory of women, I think every human being has the voice. My hunch is that it’s the difference between how men and women manage their inner critic that is the difference that might mean that the 100% vs 60% has some truth to it.
Harvard Business Review claims that it’s not confidence that stops women going for the job, but a greater fear of failure because girls do better at school and it’s more instilled in us to follow rules and conform – and we perceive failure as having greater and longer lasting consequences. Conversely, men have a greater willingness to break rules and are less inclined to follow instructions (in the context of applying for jobs breaking the rules and ignoring instructions of needing a certain amount of qualifications and experience) and just apply for the job anyway. Men are better at ignoring or telling their inner critic to pipe down.
Make of it what you will, I see similar fears fuelled by the inner critics of both men and women I work with.
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