why women get paid less (a prologue to my review of the confidence code)

I was browsing for a new e-book to read from my library when I happened across a book entitled The Confidence Code by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman.  This book caught my eye because one thing I’ve noticed about women is they tend to have less confidence than men.  I think it’s the last thing that stands between salaries for men and women being statistically equal for equal work.  Now don’t get me wrong.  I don’t believe in artificially manipulating things so that gender statistics are all equal between men and women, but often people wonder why they are not equal (as do I).  And often people use gender statistics for their own agendas, mostly without realizing it.  (Read Freakanomics for good examples of people not distinguishing between causation and correlation).  Often I’ve said that men and women have different pay for equal positions due to differing priorities.  Women often choose to work part time or stay home with the children, skewing the large salaries towards men due to more years of experience and willingness to take on responsibility (because they can work longer hours).  But I have seen studies that claim to have normalized the data to allow for these factors and the salary differences are still favoring males.  I’m skeptical of the processes applied to normalize the data, but it still got me thinking, what really contributes to larger salaries?…confidence.

If you look at things from a business perspective, you realize that pay isn’t determined by talent.  A business will pay the minimum it has to, to get the services provided it needs to turn a profit.  And when you look at the human level, people are often worried more about themselves than others.  What does that mean?  You have to make a stink to get paid better and your “stink” better be good.  If you’re not bringing profit to a company and making everyone aware of it, chances are you aren’t getting paid “well”.  Traditionally, men are better at talking themselves up.  You can read about numerous studies that show that men often believe they are better at something than women when they are actually equal.  I believe this character difference between men and women is the last piece of the puzzle for unequal pay.

OK, what to do about it?

Like I said, I don’t believe in artificially manipulating the system to get the statistics you want, but I still want to understand why women have lower confidence.  I’ve certainly been there.  Looking back, I remember a boyfriend I had in high school.  We were very competitive with one another and he beat me in EVERYTHING.  It was very frustrating.  Then, in senior year, on the AP calculus exam, I received a grade of 5 (that’s the highest score).  He received a 4.  I, of course, made him aware and his response was, “well I didn’t study”.  Well I didn’t study either.  Studying for AP exams is nearly impossible.  I still felt inadequate.

It took me many years to stop worrying about what other people thought and to just grade myself against myself.  It took me many more years to learn how to advertise myself.  It took me more years after that to realize most people were over confident.  It’s extremely unfortunate that we have to do this (sell ourselves), and I vow to not require those that work for me to do this, but I know it’s a fact of life and something I have to do to move forward.  Many women don’t do this, or at least don’t believe they are good enough for a better job or even the jobs they have.

OK, what to do about it?

I don’t know.  And that’s why I was intrigued by The Confidence Code.  Maybe they had the answers, or at least some insight.  Stay tuned for my review.



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