VIDEO: The authors of "The Confidence Gap" discuss it with The Atlantic's Hanna Rosin.

 

Evidence shows that women are less self-assured than men, and to succeed, confidence matters as much as competence.

 

This is the conclusion of Claire Shipman, a reporter for ABC News, and Katty Kay, the anchor of BBC World News America, in their essay published in the May issue of The Atlantic. It's called "The Confidence Gap," and Shipman and Kay argue that women will occupy more C-suites and positions of power by taking risks, speaking up and being more confident.

 

"The elusive nature of confidence has intrigued us ever since we started work on our 2009 book, 'Womenomics,' which looked at the many positive changes unfolding for women," Shipman and Kay wrote in the Atlantic essay. "To our surprise, as we talked with women, dozens of them, all accomplished and credentialed, we kept bumping up against a dark spot that we couldn't quite identify, a force clearly holding them back. ... In two decades of covering American politics as journalists, we realized, we have between us interviewed some of the most influential women in the nation. In our jobs and our lives, we walk among people you would assume brim with confidence. And yet our experience suggests that the power centers of this nation are zones of female self-doubt - that is, when they include women at all."

 

The pair continued to talk with highly successful women and, in turn, found more evidence of a shortage in confidence. The gap separating the sexes is "vast," they said. Compared with men, women don't consider themselves as ready for promotions, they predict they'll do worse on tests, and they generally underestimate their abilities. This disparity stems from factors ranging from upbringing to biology.

 

"Women, whilst we have all the talent, we have all the competence, we're perfectly able, we are undervaluing ourselves compared to men," Kay said in this interview with Marketplace.org.

 

This trend was also noted in a 2013 study conducted by the Iowa Women's Leadership Conference. IWLC and Vernon Research Group of Cedar Rapids surveyed more than 5,000 women to gauge where and how women lead, what factors contribute to their success in leadership roles and what circumstances hold them back.

So what holds Iowa women back? According to Iowa survey results, 44 percent of respondents said it's lack of confidence in themselves. 

 

The good news, according to Kay and Shipman, is the confidence gap can be closed.

Des Moines resident and author Mary Gottschalk wrote about the essay on her blog.

 

"The authors recognize that taking action isn't always easy and it isn't always enough. Sometimes courage or anger or creativity or the willingness to take a risk is also required," Gottschalk wrote. "They also believe that, whatever your level of confidence, action reinforces it and inaction erodes it.

 

Do you have confidence? Take Shipman and Kay's confidence code assessment. The survey is the first of its kind to attempt to broadly measure confidence in women, and will provide data needed to yield important information about other factors that might impact confidence in women, such as income, geography, ethnicity and age.