Men on Top

I’ve been seeing and reading quite a lot lately about the gender gap, the confidence gap, gender inequality in power positions, the dearth of women in politics and as CEOs and CFOs of the largest companies.  Women lack confidence.  Women wait until they are 110% ready to go for a promotion, men go when they are 60%.  Women ask for raises when they have all their ducks in a row and can boast flawless performance; men ask when they have a duckling or two because hey, can’t hurt to ask.

Why aren’t more women noticed, and promoted?  What’s been said is that women have to be bolder, have to be coached to be more confident.  Women won’t get squat if they don’t speak up, like men do.

Can we flip that?  Why aren’t we asking why we promote people who are lacking?  Why are we promoting men simply because they are confident, without delving into their competence?  Why do we accept the lesser candidate based on boldness alone?  If men ask for a promotion when they are 60% ready and they get it based on self-promotion, why aren’t we asking how he expects to manage that shortfall of his skillset?  Why are we satisfied with good enough?

Maybe the answer isn’t in asking women to “be like men.”  Maybe we– the selection committee, the professors, the interviewers– have to be more discerning, less distracted by the flash of self-assured smiles, more attuned to quieter miens of women, and more timid men, too, who are uncomfortable being audacious.  When a candidate is asked, “can you do this job,” and answers, honestly, “I will do my absolute best,’ we shouldn’t wait for the candidate who we know is full of it who says, “Absolutely.”  We ask the same, in error, of politicians — when everyone knows only fools act when the wiser would ponder.

The potential for excellence in leadership shouldn’t need a loudspeaker or PR machine of uber-confidence. Shouldn’t we let talent, intelligence, skills, education, character, and insight speak for themselves?