“I see myself as a person with high self-esteem.”
If 0 was “totally disagree”, and 5 was “totally agree”, how would you rate your agreement to that phrase? That was asked to over 985,000 people from 48 countries over the course of eight years. And guess what? Men overwhelmingly rated their self-esteem as being far higher than women.
Men are associated with confidence, power, and self-belief. Women, on the other hand, are associated with none of these, and often with their opposites. However, this is another widely held myth. Women have come a long way, and there is just no earthly reason that one should believe that women have no financial confidence. Every day in my work, I see women all around me who are confident.
What is Confidence?
And why do men seem to have so much of it?!
Psychology Today defines confidence as “a belief in oneself, the conviction that one has the ability to meet life’s challenges and to succeed—and the willingness to act accordingly. Being confident requires a realistic sense of one’s capabilities and feeling secure in that knowledge.” But Katty Kay and Claire Shipman, in their extensive work on women and confidence, define it more comfortably as the ability to put thoughts into action. And they recognize that something has created a confidence gap between men and women across the world.
Men have historically, in the public domain (i.e. at work and outside of the house), been better at taking those actions, rather than thinking about them. Women think more and tend to weigh the pros and cons of their decisions more often than men. And this approach has contributed to the myth that women have no financial confidence.
Not only that, but the time period in which women have had to adapt to making serious money decisions is, generally speaking, far tighter. It really is only in the last seventy years or so that women have had significant careers and pursued a professional life around their homemaking roles. And I’ve got to say, I think we’re making up for lost time magnificently well.
Changing Gender Roles, Changing Money Mindsets
So we may acknowledge that previously women just have not had the opportunity to manage their own money. We also need to acknowledge that the financial world has traditionally been dominated by men, most particularly with investing. While a woman may have had a strong grip on the household budget, and be adept at managing the day-to-day finances of running a home, they were more likely to be far removed from bigger financial decisions.
Much has changed. We are removing the shackles of gender stereotyping and deeply entrenched historical gender roles. We have opened the doors to finance, politics, sports, etc. I used to be a pharmaceutical sales representative in the nineties, just after women were allowed to enter the profession. Initially, the companies were reluctant to hire women in the profession as they believed women would underperform their male counterparts. Is it any surprise that women were able to blow that belief to bits?
Is our approach to our careers and home life different than men’s? Absolutely. Women have a different way of achieving their goals and relating to others; however, our approach works and has brought women much success once they were given the opportunities to break those gender stereotypes. This led to increased financial success for us and the ability to manage our own finances confidently.
Look Before You Leap
The workplace seems to value authoritative figures who can make decisions quickly and boldly. I’ve always thought that strange. Surely, the best approach is to think first, and then act. Within the male paradigm, this approach is often mistaken for lack of confidence. I just see it as sensible, don’t you? When confronted with a decision to be made, women are far more likely to say, “I don’t know what to do here, but I’m going to find out.” And women are also more likely to ask for guidance.
Using this approach enables women to be successful with their finances. Women are adept at self-reflection, and have a deep understanding of their goals. They often want to use their money in a way that will influence their lives in a more positive way. Men tend to value the acquisition of status symbols (and really, this goes back to biology and genetics as hunter gatherers – the more, the better, the stronger). Women tend to imbue their financial lives with more emotional meaning and intent.
Women Have No Financial Confidence
An Outdated, Irrelevant Assumption
Money’s role in a woman’s life has been changing quickly, alongside women’s role in society. Historically, women have outlived their husbands meaning that financial responsibility has fallen to them much later in life. They have historically depended on their husband’s income and wealth throughout their lives as well as in retirement.
Now women are not only fast finding their footing in the financial world, but they are quickly showing that there is nothing to stop them from closing the pay gap, and closing the confidence gap with it.
While confidence is so tightly entwined with the ideas of thought and action, and the ability to act assertively, maybe our basic understanding of the notion of confidence needs to be redefined. Maybe we should assign notions of confidence to those who think harder and longer, as women tend to do, and to fully inform themselves before acting. Then we will truly understand that women can be, and are, just as confident as men when it comes to their financial lives.
Our clients become more empowered as they realize their own value and potential – both financially and personally. If you’d like to talk about this a bit more, then please do reach out to me. I’d love to help you see your own limiting beliefs and to embrace your own, unique potential for new found confidence.