Fill the Confidence Gap with Confident Hope

by Jodi Koslow Martin

I really like the magazine, The Atlantic. It delves deep into topics that are of interest to me and has some good writing. I’m a fan of Variety Fair, too, for the same reasons. It is The Atlantic, though, that retreats from the celebrity arena and instead has had some pretty interesting cover stories on women and gender. Ann-Marie Slaughter’s “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All.” Jean Twenge’s “How Long Can You Wait to Have a Baby?” And, now “The Confidence Gap” by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman. If you are reading this blog, you likely have experienced the confidence gap. You may have refrained from applying for a job or pursuing a promotion because you thought you weren’t ready for said job or promotion. Then, when you got the job or promotion, you may have thought, “Wow, the candidate pool must have been pretty small.”  And, you have likely never said the following words: “Yeah, I got that job because I know I was better than everyone else.” The confidence gap is the idea that women have significantly less confidence than men. In turn, the argument that women aren’t at the upper echelons of power is due, in part, to our lack of confidence.

This idea reminds me of a meeting I was in this week. I was at the table with all the vice presidents of the university (I am one of them) and the president. The only other female vice president was not there. I noticed it instantly. I didn’t notice that M wasn’t there; I noticed I was the only woman. It was really unnecessary. It was not as if any of the conversations excluded me. The people present at the meeting are all incredibly wonderful colleagues, and gracious men. Yet, I noticed. Did it shake my confidence? A little, I guess. But it shouldn’t. Since at the same table about a month ago, I shared some thoughts with this same group about the idea of confident hope.

When I started working at a Christian college, I was instantly introduced to a series of new traditions. Meetings often begin with devotionals. Sharing a devotional is the practice of integrating some form of expression with scripture and reflection. At least, that’s what I’ve learned it to be. My Catholic upbringing did not expose me to this practice. If I have ever prayed publicly, it was a bona fide prayer that had been written ages ago and has stood the test of time and my Catholic school memorization. But, my new work environment is a world of extemporaneous prayer and the sharing of some innermost thoughts. Holy cats, was this a stretch.

When it was my turn to share a devotional with the senior team, I turned to a book that seems to be floating around my campus, Jesus Calling by Sarah Young. In one of her daily readings, she mentions the idea of hope. Young writes, “Hope lifts your perspective from your weary feet to the glorious view you can see from the high road” (p.218). Then, as I was reading the scriptures Young references, I found Romans 12:12. “Rejoice in our confident hope.” Confident hope. I love that idea. Hope is what keeps our heads up. Confidence, as Kay and Shipman describe, is the linkage between ideas and action – and it’s this cycle that keeps perpetuating confidence. Do something well and you have confidence to do it again.

So, use hope to keep your head up with the confidence that you can do a job that you think you are 75% qualified for. Confident hope, I have found, is what you use when that pipe dream of a job posting crosses your path in which you have most (but not all) of the experience. Confident hope propels you apply because you see it as an opportunity. Confident hope is what leads you to believe that it was something bigger than you that led you to that job posting in the first place and makes you feel like it’s your responsibility to apply. Because you know what? You are smart enough (not to sound too Stuart Smalley) to figure out the other 25%. Men, research shows, wouldn’t doubt it.  Women, please listen to my friend, Dr. Sara Hinkle, in her earlier blog entry, “Overcoming the Imposter Within”.  Don’t doubt yourself. Stop comparing yourself to the other candidates you are making up in your head. Stop thinking you are just being humble. Stop letting opportunities pass you by. Apply for the job. Then figure out who the boss is and figure out a way to be introduced. Your sisters are placing their confident hope in you.


4 thoughts on “Fill the Confidence Gap with Confident Hope

  1. How do you maintain “confident hope” when you consistently get turned down or get put on the alternatives list? Most likely a question for another post…

    1. Yes, it is. Confident hope includes patience, self reflection, pause, and retooling. Confident hope supersedes “consistently get[ting] turned down” and, in time, turns it into realizing that the opportunity was not the right fit at the right time. I find I need to remind myself that God’s timeline is often not the one you have in mind for yourself.

  2. I have been really interested in the recent conversations about the confidence gap. I gave a paper a few years ago on female students and the impostor syndrome, and that seems very much connected to this. My only hesitation about it is that I think some could then argue that the confidence gap itself is the very thing that limits the opportunities of women rather than systemic injustice. While I think systemic injustice has caused the confidence gap, I am concerned that some might argue that it is only the confidence gap that causes inequities in the work place, in education, and so on. In other words, it could be used to argue that the only barrier to greater equality for women is women themselves. Thinking about the confidence gap is really important both for ourselves and for our female students. Alongside that, I think we also want to identify the causes of the confidence gap.

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