Identify the Problem

While looking for inspiration for my new blog post, I came across a column on the BBC entitled The Confidence Code. The first Q&A I saw queried if other woman felt competitive with and “held back” by women, particularly those in a position of success.[1] The response started off well enough, explaining that evidence did not support this assertion, yet the column veered quite a bit. It recommended “to bring them on to your team,” further explaining that praise would win these other women over to your side. I am still trying to force this last statement to make sense. The author essentially says that because you are a woman, you need to have the approval of others and have them on your side. Your strengths, your value, and your work ethic pale in comparison to this pathological need. All because you are a woman.

To me, this is using gender as an excuse. The person writing the question was from the West. Consequently, she enjoys unprecedented privileges compared to the majority of the world. Complaining that people don’t like her and that other women’s approval is necessary for her confidence seems juvenile, to say the least. Let me be perfectly clear: women face real problems in the world, including limits on freedom and physical safety. However, blaming other women for your lack of confidence is a crutch.

More and more, women are using their gender as an excuse–“I have low confidence because other women do not support me.”

My parents raised me to be an empowered individual. I fully believe that I make my own future and that I am responsible for my own confidence. The more women use their gender as a crutch, the more obscured real issues become. When women with unprecedented opportunities for economic advancement and personal fulfillment blame dissatisfaction on gender, they make it far more difficult for other women to achieve those same opportunities for success.

We have to stop using the crutch and start identifying the problem itself.

Most articles examine women’s workplace struggles from another angle. One article begins the conversation around mentoring and networking, where women and minorities receive less support than the “good old boys club” and consequently enjoy fewer opportunities for corporate advancement.[2] Another article notes that women in management positions “break the barrier” and allow for more influx of women into the work place. The debate is framed in terms of precedent and capability, and references a glass cliff. The glass cliff refers to positions created in times of crisis where success is difficult regardless of gender, yet the “doomed” positions are typically filled by women.[3]

Here you may be saying—but wait, this last paragraph has nothing to do with the original rant that started this post. Au contraire. Instead of blaming gender for personal satisfaction in the job, this article appropriately frames the debate in terms of precedent and entrenched societal attitudes. You are welcome to disagree with the articles mentioned, but the important thing is that they start the debate in the right area. Gender is taken into account, but it is not a crutch to prevent confidence or personal fulfillment.


by EB

[1] Katy Kay, “The Confidence Code Q&A—Do Women Hold Each Other Back?” The Confidence Code, May 21, 2014.

[2] Jena McGregor, “The Boardroom is Still an Old Boy’s Club,” The Washington Post, September 5, 2013.

[3] Jena McGregor, “When Women Help Other Women at Work,” The Washington Post, March 3, 2014. Post


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