Girls are smarter than boys, but do women feel worthy?

There has been much debate in recent years regarding the underlying reasons that men still outnumber women in the C-Suite by a large margin. Some theories are quite controversial, such as beliefs that executive men subconsciously dismiss women’s opinions, that women are less willing to take on high-stress roles due to family obligations, and that even if they’re willing to take on such roles higher-level executives will assume they either aren’t interested or can’t handle them.

I don’t wish to debate these theories in this post. Instead, I wish to raise the question of whether women (in general, particularly women in business) experience a deficiency of belief in our own worthiness, and if this may be a large part of what is holding women back from C-Suite assignments.

In a nutshell, I’m wondering if we are holding ourselves back.

It was this infographic from EngineeringDegree.net that led to my pondering:

Created by: EngineeringDegree.net

While most of this data is disconcerting, there were three glaring items in this set of data that truly concern me:

1. The steep drop in girls’ self-confidence over the course of just a few years

2. The fact that by the age of just 15 almost half of all girls don’t feel confident about themselves

3. That when reminded they are a girl prior to taking a test, they score 20% lower than when they don’t even think about their gender.

So my question is this: is there an underlying sense of unworthiness that somehow becomes instilled in girls at an early age? Why does just thinking about the fact that you are a girl cause a girl to score 20% lower on a test?

Are we given messages at an early age that as girls we are not as worthy of success as boys? And if so, does this belief system lie within women throughout our careers and impact whether or not we ask for promotions, more money, more responsibility, and ultimately a C-Suite role?

If there is even a remote possibility that this is the case, then how do we as adults, as leaders, as educators, and most importantly as parents address this? How do we ensure that not only do young girls feel confident in themselves, but they feel fully worthy of success in all its forms?

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