When it comes to evaluating ability, men tend to overestimate theirs and women tend to underestimate theirs (Reilly & Mulhern, 1995).
I am constantly underestimating myself at work, but is the reason why really because I’m a woman?
According to Stanford University professor, Dr. Carol Dweck, it might be.
Dr. Dweck’s research findings show that girls are frequently praised for being “smart” or “good,” while boys are praised for “trying hard.” In effect, many girls develop a fixed mindset; the idea that ability is fixed or static. This leads some girls to avoid challenges, focus on looking smart rather than being smart, give up more easily, and not putting in the extra effort.
Conversely, boys tend to develop a growth mindset; the idea that ability can be developed. They are more likely to embrace challenges, persist during setbacks, and believe if they work hard enough, they can master a task. Although this is not always the case for each gender, Dr. Dweck’s research suggests that the way boys and girls are praised when they’re young can hinder or help them later in life (Dweck, 2008).
Even though I don’t want to admit it, I definitely see a lot of men and women playing right into these mindsets in the workplace, which can have a major impact on their careers. We’ve all heard the stories; men usually negotiate better when accepting job offers and ask for promotions more often than women. This is because they know their self-worth and they aren’t afraid to fight for it. In contrast, women tend to think what they’re given is good enough and even if it’s not, they won’t challenge it too much because they constantly doubt their abilities and what they’re worth.
So what should women do to break out of this mindset?
Follow what men are doing and start advocating for themselves. For instance, in a salary negotiation, women should present concrete examples, or even hard data, of their positive contributions to the company. In effect, having evidence of their value will help them be confident in asking for what they’re worth. I’ve also been told by successful senior-level women that one of the best things you can do for your career is to have a male mentor who can coach you with a growth mindset to reach your full potential and capitalize on your worth.
So ladies, take it from men and work toward a growth mindset, because if you want to get ahead, things can’t stay the same.