Women constitute 61% of university graduates, yet their perspectives account for less than 20% of the commentaries in Canada’s largest daily newspapers and on public affairs talk shows.
Why aren’t more women’s voices being heard? One important reason is women’s hesitance to speak up, or position themselves as experts. While women today are just as educated (or more educated) than men, and just as ambitious as men, studies suggest that there is still as “confidence gap”.
A 2003 study conducted by Cornell psychologist David Dunning and Washington State University psychologist Joyce Erlinger revealed that women often underestimate their abilities. The researchers asked male and female college students to complete a science quiz, then asked them to indicate how well they thought they did. On average the women thought they got 5.8 questions out of 10 correct, the men thought they had 7.1 out of 10. When it came to the actual performance, they both performed almost the same (women got 7.5 out of 10 and men 7.9). The students were then asked to participate in a science competition for prizes, without knowing their score. Only 49% of the female students signed up, compared to 71% of the male students. Not only does a lack of confidence result in women underestimating their abilities, but it also leads to women turning down opportunities that could benefit them.
The consequences of this are significant. A lack of women’s voices in the media means that the public is missing out on diversity of opinion. It also means that women’s capacity to influence the policies and priorities of the country are decreased. Additionally, for women entrepreneurs, not speaking up results in a missed opportunity to raise the profile of their business.
If you are an entrepreneur you have expertise in your business area. After all, you wouldn’t have started your own business if you didn’t feel you were knowledgeable and capable, and had you had something to offer! It’s time for women entrepreneurs to raise their hands, and position themselves as subject matter experts. You can’t have your voice heard if you’re reluctant to join the conversation.