We Can Do It!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Claire Shipman, senior national correspondent at "Good Morning America" and Katty Kay, BBC World News America anchor, follow up their book Womenomics with The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance---What Women Should Know (HarperBusiness, 2014), urging women to develop confidence, even overconfidence, in their abilities to compete in the professional marketplace.

Read The Atlantic's extended excerpt of The Confidence Code here.


Katty Kay and Claire Shipman

Comments [43]


When I joined the Marines 40 years ago, a WM's (woman Marine) purpose was to "free a man to fight".
When marching, being taken to & from vaccinations, or waiting for chow, we were usually ordered to sing. The songs' lyrics included, "We're United States Marine Girls", and "Find yourself a good Marine ... there's nothing he can't do".
Along with biological & chemical warfare, emergency first aid, gas chamber training, etc., there were Image Development classes.
We were taught poise, such as how to get in and out of a chair gracefully.
Girdles were issued to all and were required when wearing the service uniform.
Everyone was issued one of two make-up kits. Those of us with brown eyes wore blue eye shadow and a lipstick called "Little Miss Choo-Choo". Being without makeup meant being out of uniform.
Near the end of bootcamp, our Image Development skills were put into practice by hosting a tea attended by many of the base's high-ranking officers and enlisted, including Parris Island's Commanding General.
I doubt any of us could have imagined how different the military would become for women.

Apr. 19 2014 12:47 PM
Steven from Brooklyn

Alex, your response strikes me as odd. My comment was meant as a criticism of (potentially) promoting confidence in the absence of competence. I don't think that I either explicitly agreed with or disagreed with anything you said. What would disturb me is a woman behaving incompetently, defending herself based on this book by saying "You just don't like confident women."

Apr. 18 2014 03:14 PM

It's painfully ironic that Manoush only wants to hear what men think about women and confidence. Perhaps women are less confident because we're told over and over again—by women like Manoush, as much as by men—that our opinions aren't important.

Apr. 18 2014 02:35 PM
Alex from DC

Steven, even if that followed logically (it doesn't), the authors' several theses are each so faulty, poorly developed, and poorly supported that it would hardly be to the credit of anyone if, in fact, they'd exemplified any of them in writing the book. At any rate, every vapid book that succeeds despite the author's lack of ability and because of her industry connections proves any number of theses-- whether unfounded, absurd, unfocused, or not worth positing. But then you're not really making a point, are you? Just engaging in a rather poorly framed attempt at oneupmanship. How's it working for you?

Apr. 18 2014 01:31 PM
Janet Bloom from Peekskill

While enjoying listening to this lively and far reaching interview I thought of the root meaning of the words competence and confidence, the first being with + seeking, the second being with + faith.

How can we teach people how to seek and believe in successful ways?

An authoritative doctor once told me I had “a doubting disease.” As distasteful as that was I had to take his word for it, and didn’t have a prayer of gaining confidence until I learned a thoroughgoing new way of seeing and sensing for myself exactly where I’m coming from and where I’m going, eidetic imaging. I soon saw why seeing is believing.

I also saw that I could not see myself clearly because I could not see how my parents saw me. I couldn’t see myself in their eyes. Largely because they were narcissistic and for a long time more absorbed in their quarreling than in showing me or my sister viable ways of seeing ourselves in operation.

Now I see that in order to have either competence or confidence a person must persistently and systematically exercise those powers of observation that support getting the whole, clear, functional, growing, living picture of situations, seeing all angles and levels of them, the inside stories and the outside views, and how they interact. This will free positive, forthright self-images from obscure, withdrawing, undermining self-images.

A person who tries to keep going on guesswork, on nebulous, erratic, intuition, speculation, bias, prejudice. fantasy, or snap judgment, instead of progressively growing, structural and restructuring self-images, is on shaky footing.

Seeing how to see yourself deeply and clearly enough to see where other people are coming from; seeing how to see and sense thoroughly, sensitively and sensibly, is key. Through seeing and sensing this well you feel secure in your vision of what is going on. Going on words and concepts alone you don’t get that structural feeling of security from knowing the ground under your feet, or the tremendous energy and lucidity that comes from seeing things for yourself.

Apr. 18 2014 01:17 PM
Steven from Brooklyn

Alex from DC, if you are correct in your assessment of their qualifications (and the book's quality) and at the same time the book is successful, that makes the authors an example of their thesis.

Apr. 18 2014 12:32 PM
Alex from DC

Part of what I found creepy about his segment is the provenance of the book that these two guests were here to promote. Both of these women are journalists, and what they lack in insight and professional expertise in the challenging, nuanced subjects they purport to treat, they make up for in ample media/publishing industry connections. The issues that these woemn and their handlers purport to treat are subtle and complex, and they matter. These two people have little qualification to understand, much less investigate, those issues, and that fact is amply born out by both their comments and their book (I had the misfortune to read it). I'm sure some publicist this "topic" had "legs and teeth" and that these two visible and well-branded women were as good as any to be trotted out as purveyors of the "issue"). The same kind of confluence of profit motives occurred in the case of Cheryl Sandburg--a powerful, visible business woman without the reflectiveness or expertise to engage in thoughtful analysis and discussion of "women's" issues of any complexity or importance. But like these two journalists, she, her brand, and the business industry with which she's enmeshed profit in various ways by "taking on," or rather pretending to take on, a complex subtle issue that many, many brilliant, highly trained, energetic, and gifted experts can genuinely address and advance. Think of those women (and men) displaced, in a sense, by the resources used on this segment. This "book" represents part of what is properly *their* rightful niche, or market space--choose your jargon. Pretenders, or half-pretenders, whatevs, should step aside, and let the real women and men get on with the true work here (low confidence, high confidence, warts, and all). Here's hoping to a substantive segment next time. I'm talking to you, WNYC.

Apr. 18 2014 12:21 PM

Seidelman's 'Making Mr. Right'...encapsulated this best. See it if you haven't already.

Early athletic prowess is the definer of confidence. Classroom/scholastic ability is secondary.

If I had it do again, I would have insisted on eyeglasses in 2nd grade when I was first diagnosed as nearsighted. My OD thought I might 'grow out it'. I didn't get my first pair of glasses until 5 years later and by then the eye-hand coordination needed to be a really good athlete had passed me by.

Apr. 18 2014 11:48 AM
A.M. from NYC

O brave new world, that has such people in it.

It gives me a lot of hope to read so many of the comments here.

Solidarity. May the road rise to meet you.

Apr. 18 2014 11:42 AM

why are men that are perceived as confident,held up as any sort of gold standard? does the subtle and the intuitive,for all genders,not make more sense? i know some world class louts[of all genders]that are thought of as "confident".

Apr. 18 2014 11:37 AM
Ellen from Brooklyn

I feel like this conversation is a little one sided, with the focus on how we need to train our girls to take things the way aggressive men do. While I agree that society holds women back, I don't agree that currently successful men should be the model for all of us. There are a lot of powerful men in the workforce that are terrible! Terrible to work with and terrible to work for. They get away with it because we allow (and even promote) certain behaviors from men and not from women, but that doesn't mean that should be the goal for all of us. Women are taught to put others first and while it's not fair for us to sacrifice our own needs for the needs of men, it's not a weakness to be able to empathize and listen and collaborate.

We should let our children express a full range of emotions regardless of gender. I think all people need to be able to speak up for themselves and still be able to take feedback. I don't think the key to our future is more bulldozing jerks, regardless of gender

Apr. 18 2014 11:37 AM
henry from md

My comment was suppressed although it mentioned an issue no one else did.
OK, no more donation letters, please

Apr. 18 2014 11:35 AM
Lee from Greenpoint

L, I appreciated that analysis. Strikes me as really astute. Amy and Sandra, thank you.

Apr. 18 2014 11:31 AM

The man who claimed that he was a stay-at-home dad while his wife worked and that his daughter wants to be a "princess" but that he won't allow it:
The sad thing that he also said "I want my daughter to be feminine and tough." That is a mixed message. I notice is that even when people are "feminist" in bringing up their daughters, they tend not to notice that they usually still hang on to gender stereotypes.
Also if his daughter seems to resist being brought up to be more like a boy, it is probably that though her dad tries to encourage her to like sports and activities instead of playing passively with dolls, the kid is still in a world in which she sees other girls being dressed in pink and playing with Barbie dolls and the kid probably sees other girls getting praised and approved-of for their compliance with passive "girly" behaviors. Also it is possible that the man's wife , though she may be the bread winner of the family and should be an example of a "non-traditional female" for her daughter, may be less feminist than her husband and may be telling her daughter that working is tough and unrewarding and that it is best to be a stay-at-home mom.

There must be freakonomics involved in the entire issue.

Apr. 18 2014 11:28 AM
A.M. from NYC

"Think less." I see why you recommend that. That's how you came up with this palaver, guests. And to women: "Try something a little bit hard." Could you be a little more condescending to women? It's *your own* construction of women as people lacking something, and your own misunderstanding of them as weak and ill-defined on the basis of that imputed lack, that you are addressing. This is your own shadow. Not-thinkers, heal yourselves!

Apr. 18 2014 11:27 AM
dr. sandra mann from nyc

longitudinal research: when fathers are supportive and encouraging of girls' successes and promote their aspirations, they have a greater chance of achieving with CONFIDENCE.

Apr. 18 2014 11:25 AM
Fred from Bloomfield, NJ

Why be angry when asked a "tough" question? Isn't the interviewer doing you a favor by giving you a chance to show you can handle a "difficult" situation?

Apr. 18 2014 11:25 AM
Amy from Manhattan

OK, gotta do 1 more. Manoush just addressed the guests as "ladies." Are girls still told they have to be ladies? Were boys ever told they had to be gentlemen in the same way? How much of the problem is that acting w/confidence is considered "unladylike"?

Apr. 18 2014 11:23 AM

I can confirm that a woman's authentic confidence is well-received by truly talented coworkers and superiors. A big part of the problem is that many work environments (and HR departments) recruit and encourage sociopathic behavior.

I've seen many intelligent, calm, confident, hilarious women pushed out of positions of power because crazy men and women can't understand why these women aren't as miserable as they are. They can accept the male equivalent because they're accustomed to it.

Apr. 18 2014 11:21 AM
Alex from DC

Welcome to your world, John. Better stay in there. Wouldn't want to challenge yourself. Might be scary.

Apr. 18 2014 11:20 AM
Amy from Manhattan

I saw a PBS science show that showed an experiment. Adults were put in a room w/a baby & told to interact w/the baby. Sometimes the (same) baby was dressed as a girl & sometimes as a boy. Adults who thought the baby was a girl they talked to "her." Adults who thought the baby was a boy played actively w/"him." These messages about gender roles are taught to children very early.

Now that you're talking about sports, for me it wasn't about "being allowed to fail. I was good at sports, but I was always told, "Hey, you throw good...for a *girl*." It was my 1st encounter w/the glass ceiling.

Apr. 18 2014 11:20 AM
Lee from Greenpoint

Jade, Susan, BK, Amy. Thanks for your comments. You help make listening to the disturbing segment more bearable.

Apr. 18 2014 11:19 AM
Cathi from Manhattan

I've found that other women are sometimes just as or more threatened by my confidence as men are. As a baby boomer, I wonder if this is a generational issue.

Apr. 18 2014 11:19 AM
john from office

No woman respects a man that does not make a living and sits at home anyone that says it is ok is lying.

Apr. 18 2014 11:18 AM
A.M. from NYC

Right back at you, Ann. I appreciate the many other posts here making similarly salient points. Someone sent me an essay recently called "Feeling LIke a Fraud." Thanks for the heads up re Peggy Macintosh. I found it ((paper from a while back but still chillingly au courant, at least the first page--still reading):

"Many people — especially women — experience
feelings of fraudulence when singled out for praise, press,
publicity, or promotion. While such feelings of fraudulence
may be deplorable, especially if and when they trouble
women more than men, these same feelings also may
indicate a wise reluctance to believe in the accuracy of
absolute ranking, and may point the way to a valid critique
of hierarchical structures. Apology and self-disparagement
may indicate an honest refusal to internalize the idea that
having power or public exposure proves one’s merit and/or
authority. Apologetic or hedging speech may indicate
uneasiness with rhetorical or coercive forms of speech and
behavior, and may signal a desire to find more collaborative
forms. People who feel in public like imposters are perhaps
more to be trusted than those who have never experienced
feelings of fraudulence. The analysis is placed in context of
a theoretical model of a double and conflicting structure
within the psyche and within the society: overvalued,
overdeveloped, “vertical,” competitive functions at odds
with undervalued, under-recognized, “lateral,”
collaborative functions. A double vision of these double
functions within both psyche and society is recommended to
understand feelings of fraudulence and to overcome them in
contexts where that is necessary. (see full paper on

Apr. 18 2014 11:17 AM

1. why focusing on calls from men?
2. it's cheap and divisive to try and make this a generational issue. you are NOT the pioneer generation by the way. Ramon is way way wrong.
3. all this stuff about how yo are raised is bull, because the culture still wants women to smile and act nice, still values women primarily as a sexual outlet/object for men. especially in places like law and financial services.

Apr. 18 2014 11:16 AM
dr. sandra mann from nyc

research on peer groups - differences between girls and boys.

peers are almost as important as parents in influencing behaviors.
girls from the earliest ages are different in socializing.
getting into a girls' group is easy; getting thrown out is easy.
getting into a boys' group is hard - it's based on athletics, for the most part. getting thrown out is unusual.
this makes girls a lot more tremulous and insecure. much of the preadolescence is based on appearance. if girls are too brainy or different they are often weird and ostracized. the bullying is powerful when the pre-frontal cortex has not started to develop, which happens in adolescence. by then, the impressions and foundation are laid.

culture and sexualization: important in forming female identity. looks and sex. listen to the rap lyrics, note the female images. who is more popular: lindsay lohan, miley cyrus as role models or michelle and hillary?

these impressions are formed preadolescence and underscore the development of confidence or lack of it.
dr. sandra mann, parent educator, academic; family therapist

Apr. 18 2014 11:16 AM
Susan from NYC

There is a double standard when it comes to age. Men are seen as more experienced...women are often seen as out of their prime. Can your guests talk about that?

Apr. 18 2014 11:15 AM
Steven from Bklyn

The mistake that men make is believing that women are trying to make things fair. Rather they are trying to gain advantages by any means possible. Just like men do.

Apr. 18 2014 11:15 AM

I think part of the problem is our tendency to want to make broad generalizations about men and women. It sounds like this book is contributing to that, and adding to the problem. We're all individuals and it might be more useful to encourage everyone to develop our confidence as individuals, instead of adding yet another "difference between men and women."

Apr. 18 2014 11:13 AM
Amy from Manhattan

Every geneticist says that characteristics like these are determined by *both* nature & nurture, & it's known that factors in children's upbringing have effects on their brain development. Teachers still call on boys more than on girls (even when they're sure they don't, as shown by video recordings).

Women are taught from childhood to be less confident. I sure was.

Apr. 18 2014 11:12 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

I hope that robots and computers take over all leadership roles and become our bosses. I don't think humans should rule over other humans if there is an artificial intelligence alternative available. Soon software will be the boss uber alles.

Apr. 18 2014 11:11 AM
Lee from Greenpoint

Absolutely, Ann, ML, A.M.,Trini, Cervantes. Thank you. And of course we have a HOST who is actually asking "is it biology"--and MEN callers featured who keep trotting out that tired, disproven, poisonous ideology / myth "oh it's testosterone vs. cooperation." Every single person featured in this segment needs to stop pretending to be qualified to have this conversation, all of you--this is offensive. Profoundly offensive. Thanks for doing your part to take all of us backward. Look up the essay "Feeling Like a Fraud" by Peggy McIntyre.

Apr. 18 2014 11:11 AM
Ann from Washington Heights

Right on, A.M.!

Apr. 18 2014 11:10 AM
Lee from Greenpoint

Absolutely, Ann, ML, A.M.,Trini. Thank you. And of course we have a HOST who is actually asking "is it biology"--and MEN callers featured who keep trotting out that tired, disproven, poisonous ideology / myth "oh it's testosterone vs. cooperation." Every single person featured in this segment needs to stop pretending to be qualified to have this conversation, all of you--this is offensive. Profoundly offensive. Thanks for doing your part to take all of us backward.

Apr. 18 2014 11:09 AM

a lot of male confidence is "social mask",don't ya get it? it's a self delusional trap. additionally, i'm not at all impressed by "confidence", that exists apart from a moral grounding of some manner. it's just another pop-psych fetish,not unlike "self-esteem", which should be an end product of moral behavior,not a goal in and of itself. this goes for ALL genders.

Apr. 18 2014 11:07 AM
trini from NYC

Why are you talking to men? This is exactly the kind of thing that makes women feel that they are not capable of speaking for themselves.

Apr. 18 2014 11:03 AM
A.M. from NYC

Gee, I can't for the life of me imagine WHY "women" (big lump) would lack confidence, when what they're faced with is the short-sightedness of 'researchers" like your guest who unreflectively and reflexively construe "women's" ways of being and thinking and behaving as qualities that NEED TO BE CORRECTED, whereas, magically--surprise, surprise--"men's" ways of being are the "right" ones--the ones women should emulate. Hello? Hello? Ever just have the humility to stop and question your deeper assumptions? Ever hear of the Jean Baker Miller Institute and the Stone Center research on women? A little basic analysis, and questioning of your own assumptions, might lead you to inquiries like, "In what ways is the supposed DIFFERENCE of 'women' either positive, neutral or just productively DIFFERENT?" We are all too familiar with the liabilities of over-confidence, superficiality, lack of reflection--all these are qualities that can in many senses be teased out of the styles and identities of the MEN you tell these WOMEN to emulate. Yes, regarding your research on the work place and in the rest of life, and regarding similarly unthoughtful research by others, it would pay--intellectually, creatively, and ethically-- for you to examine your assumptions and stop SELLING WOMEN--AND ANYONE OF ANY GENDER OR IDENTIFY-MARKER WITH DIFFERENT, NON DOMINANT OR NON-MAINSTREAM QUALITIES OR ABILITIES--DOWN RIVER. Stop it!

Apr. 18 2014 11:01 AM

And isn't that evidence that confidence can trump confidence precisely what is wrong with much of this society? Do you really want a doctor who is confident but not competent? In my workplace our boss who had enormous confidence and was totally incompetent recently left (got another nice job), but not before doing great damage with his lack of knowledge.

Apr. 18 2014 11:01 AM
Steven from Bklyn

Employers should now be aware that their previous bias toward believing that a woman is presenting herself honestly might be changing.

Also note that recent studies show that women make better investors than men precisely because they do not suffer from the type of over confidence your guests appear to be promoting.

Apr. 18 2014 11:00 AM
Ann from Washington Heights

Could we consider the alternative: Not that women display too little confidence, but that men display too much. Driving our economy into a ditch would seem to be an example of the latter... Misplaced confidence isn't good for anybody but the person who gets away with being perceived as more competent than s/he is.

Apr. 18 2014 10:59 AM
Erica from Chelsea

Wendy Wasserstein touches on the male-female dichotomy when it comes to confidence in "The Heidi Chronicles."

Apr. 18 2014 10:58 AM
Brock from Manhattan

Please ask your guest this:

Since women have a great deal of control over who procreates and since most are not romantically attracted to a man with little or no confidence, that trait does not tend to do well in our society. Then is it an irony that women are now competing with one of the seminal, quintessential male traits that so many women prefer and have therefore propagated?

Apr. 18 2014 09:59 AM

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