Woman leaning against railing.

We've Come a Long Way Baby

(but we've still got work to do). A review of the "Confidence Code".

Three weeks ago, I reviewed “The Confidence Code:The Science and Art of Self-Assurance—What Women Should Know” for my Facebook Live Show,“Two Bosses Read”. I haven’t stopped talking about it since.


“The Confidence Code” is objectively, a good book. The authors have impressive journalistic chops. Katty Kay is an anchor for the BBC, and Claire Shipman is a regular contributor to the likes of ABC, NBC, and CNN. The book is well structured, logical, and artfully weaves in vignettes from successful women across industries, scientific studies, and authentic introspection from the authors.

The book was written as a deep dive into the deficit women have in self-assurance when compared to men—a topic explored by authors Katty Kay and Claire Shipman in their 2014 article, “The Confidence Gap”. When I first read this article, I was 24. I was not yet calling myself a feminist, and I could barely look a male colleague in the eyes, lest I say something dumb. (This lifelong habit would take me 4 more painful years to unlearn.)

Somewhere, deep in my conscience, I knew I wasn’t that confident, “But hey”, I figured, “I’m young. It’ll come with age and experience.” But, the more I paid attention to the women around me (competent, badass women) the more I saw signs—false modesty, compulsive apologizing, qualifying every opinion—that confidence wouldn’t just come to me or to any woman that doesn’t take notice and take charge.

Now, I’m not saying men are, by virtue of having different genitalia, confident. We all know this isn’t true. We all know cocky, arrogant men; men who wouldn’t know confidence if it dawned wings and walked in a Victoria’s Secret fashion show; and men somewhere in between.

But, there is a statistically significant difference in how men and women view themselves as measured by multiple different disciplines and studies cited in “The Confidence Code”. And, the outcome of this gap places women and especially women of color, at a huge disadvantage.

The most unnerving part? Women are just as competent and often more educated than their male counterparts. So, what accounts for the gap in confidence? Well that’s the complicated part. And, it’s the exact question the book sets out to and succeeds at answering. The take away? The confidence gap is the result of a complex interweaving of individual, societal, systemic and even genetic components. In short, we’ve come a long way but we still have significant societal and individual work to do.

For women, the truths will hit home. Men will also likely see traits and behaviors they recognize in the women they know professionally and personally. “The Confidence Code” takes that which we know intuitively and puts a name—both scientific and editorial—to the experiences of the modern woman. It gives us a language to communicate better about how lowered confidence affects us through our careers and lifespans and makes actionable, evidence-backed suggestions for combating this at the individual and societal level.

I loved reading this book. I laughed incredulously at new facts (Dumb Ugly Bitches or “DUBS” is the actual nickname for female students at the U.S Naval Academy) and nodded, heavy-hearted, at ones I already knew. I saw myself at 24, trying to navigate a world, a game with rules I never really understood. Thinking that if I worked twice as hard, got that master’s degree, put my head down and just powered through, then I could feel that deep sense of relief that I was good enough. Reading this book was like receiving a diagnosis for a mysterious illness. I now have a name for the way my male professors dismissed me when I spoke up, as if to say “Oh, how cute” or why I felt the constant need to be perfect.

Today, I call myself a feminist. I read and write about feminism. I make an effort to speak confidently and with authority. I no longer let sexist sh*t slide because I “don’t want to be annoying”. I surround myself with amazing, competent, women and try to emulate what they put out into the world. I sure as hell don’t have it all figured out, but like my sisters around me, I’m willing to work twice as hard to learn.

So, the next time you’re getting down because, “Holy sh*t, the world is literally ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’”, just remember to look your colleagues in the eye, accept compliments gracefully, and share your opinion without qualifying it. We’ve come a long f*ckin’ way. There’s still so much to be done. But damn, if we aren’t the most qualified to do it.





P.S.- There are a few affiliate links in this post. If you choose to purchase through them, thank you in advance.

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