Assertiveness is linked to professional success, so ambitious women should work on building their confidence, right?
Wrong, according to research from RMIT University.
The study of 7500 working men and women, and the largest of its kind in Australia, reveals a ‘personality gender gap’ affecting women’s progress in the workplace.
While having a confident personality boosts men’s chances of job promotion by 3.3 per cent, women gain no sizeable benefit.
With 150,000 more men than women promoted each year across Australia’s 12-million strong workforce, the findings are crucial to improving gender equality at work.
Lead researcher Dr Leonora Risse said the findings show prevailing assumptions like the “lean in” movement could be misguided.
“Confidence is a factor in success at work, and we see that, on average, women are less confident than men in putting themselves forward for a challenge,” Dr Risse says.
“So it seems logical that, to achieve gender equality, we should encourage women to ‘lean in’ and develop the confidence to go for more challenging roles and job promotions.”
“But our analysis shows it’s not that simple. Greater confidence does not translate into career gains, on the whole, for women.
“In fact, there is a risk that placing the onus on women to change their behaviour deflects attention from the bigger issue, which is the gender bias that appears to simmer beneath the surface in many organisational environments.
“Rather than pushing for behavioural change among women, workplaces should instead check for gender biases in how they value their workers’ attributes to ensure they don’t reward charisma over competence.”
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