Ever wondered why the cock-and-bull stories- the improbable, boastful ones; the one with exuberant details about their skills, hard work and achievements- are often only narrated by men? Apparently, this skill of exaggeration does wonders for men in their workplace too. In fact, women’s reluctance, or at times inability, to praise themselves can facilitate the creation of a glass ceiling. But what makes exaggeration a gender-specific trait? Or I’d rather put it, what makes men more (over) confident than women? It goes back a long way.
When ten-year-old Alice Paul Tapper noticed during a school trip that boys confidently raised hands and added to discussions while girls stayed in the back and were quiet, she told her mom that she thought girls weren’t raising their hands because they were afraid that the answer was going to be wrong and that they would be embarrassed. “I also think they were being quiet because the boys already had the teacher’s attention, and they worried they might not be able to get it”, she wrote for the New York Times. Alice and her girls scout team introduced the “Raise Your Hand Patch” to encourage confidence in young girls. The girls scout organization made it their official patch saying “Sign the pledge below and commit to raising your hand in class when you think you know the answer or have a question. Not 100 percent sure? That’s ok! Take a risk and try anyway.”
Girls are achieving more than they ever have- academically even more than boys- yet they’re consumed with doubt on the inside. Girls constantly worry about how they look, what they should wear, what will others think, what if they fail, why won’t they get straight “A”s and even how many Instagram followers they have.
Inspired by Alice, Claire Shipman and Katty Kay, two journalists teamed up with YPULSE to ask 8-18 year olds about their self-confidence. They found out that between ages eight and fourteen, girls’ confidence levels drop by 30%. Boys’ confidence does deteriorate, but its still 150% higher than girls when they both hit their nadir at age 14. Not only that, they also further found out that this confidence gap affects the way they envision their future careers. Therefore, the gap is created at around age 8 and prevails till the end.
But what can be done about this gap? I think the solution is to make a change in the right place and at the right time. Young girls need reassurance that it is okay to get a wrong answer sometimes, that it is okay to fail sometimes; that it will not be the end of the world. It is okay to appreciate yourself, you can narrate your own cock-and-bull stories if you’d like to! Confidence comes in the form of risk-taking opportunities and all you have to do is raise your hand and grab it!
By Prithika Acharya
Prithika is an animal lover who is studying psychology at Ashoka University. She likes to read memoirs, sketch and paint in her free time.”