It seems that now more than ever, women are competing to make it to the top. When leadership positions are coveted and seeing women in those positions is rare, it’s easy to focus on pitting yourself against other people, similar to you, in order to advance. I would argue that it is important to remember not only to work hard to advance yourself, but also to think about the ways your work can help others. When we work to uplift women, we are actually improving the workplace for everyone and helping to shift the standards. This aspect of leadership–elevating, improving, and motivating–is the key to breaking the status quo.

Recently, I read a study called “The Gender Gap in Self-Promotion,” that attempted to measure the confidence levels of women and men. The study had each participant take an exam and then describe how well they felt they had performed; afterwards their actual score was determined. The researchers discovered that on average, women believe they are about 4% less capable than they actually are. This is significant especially when compared to the fact that men in this study were about 11% overconfident. Notably, women and men averaged the same actual scores on the exam. Some have then taken this observed phenomena and simply told women to “lean in, promote yourself, and be more confident.” This is a warranted suggestion, but interestingly enough, this study revealed that women who self-promote are not significantly more likely to be promoted than those who don’t. A more productive suggestion may be to purposefully take action to create a community that uplifts and encourages other women, rather than encouraging women to promote themselves.

In addition, women do not need to change in order to be more suited to leadership positions. It is the societal stereotypes themselves that need to evolve. A deeper exploration of the previously mentioned studies further reveals that companies with more overconfident personalities have an increased likelihood of failure, and those that have more women in their ranks experience greater success. This further reinforces the idea that women, just as they are, are ready to lead and succeed.

Instead of insisting that women develop an overconfident, self-promoting personality type, we should encourage them to be more confident in their female peers and to strive for standards that celebrate both personal success and the success of others. Overconfidence is not the same as competence, and in the case of important decision making, diversity of thought frequently leads to better outcomes. One suggestion moving forward: help other women rise up, increase visibility of female leadership, and strive to create a powerful and supportive community that benefits everyone.


Exley, Christine, and Judd Kessler. “The Gender Gap in Self-Promotion.” National Bureau of Economic Research, Oct. 2019,

Cahn, Naomi. “Do Women And Men Have A Confidence Gap?” Forbes, 26 Feb. 2020, Accessed 6 July 2022.

Casserly, Meghan. “The Conversation: Male vs. Female Bosses.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 19 June 2013,

Agendavt. “This Is What People Really Think about Having a Female Boss.” Medium, Medium, 8 May 2017,,have%20children%20in%20their%20household.&text=It%20also%20found%20that%3A,work%20for%20a%20male%20manager

Burns, Janet. “The Results Are in: Women Are Great for Business, but Still Getting Pushed Out.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 22 Sept. 2017,

Author: Celeste Kidd-O’Brien