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by Derek Loosvelt | March 20, 2018


girl writing in journal

A lack of confidence is often seen as part of the reason there aren't more women in senior roles at U.S. companies. And a recent study reported on by The Wall Street Journal shows just how large this so-called "confidence gap" is.

Some 63% of women enter the workforce with the confidence that they can rise to senior management, compared with 75% of men, according to a 2016 survey of 8,400 adults by Bain & Co. and LinkedIn. By mid-career, only 57% of women still feel that way, compared with 66% of men, says Julie Coffman, a Bain partner and lead author of the study.
Women often hesitate to seize opportunities or ask for promotions without bosses’ support, and they tend to shoulder more family-care duties at home, Ms. Coffman says. Other research links women’s lack of confidence to being encouraged during childhood to be compliant and agreeable and to strive for perfection, rather than to compete and take risks.

Whatever the cause of the lack of confidence might be, several women are fighting against it with the help of something called "confidence logs" (also called "brag books"). There are no set rules as to what a confidence log must look like (it can be hard copy or digital, on your phone or laptop, kept daily or weekly, etc.), but what it does have to include is a record of your accomplishments and a record of times you acted with confidence. Some people who keep them also like to include times when confidence wasn't with them and/or times when others, particularly men, intimidated or interrupted them.

To that end, here's how keeping a confidence log helped a female Facebook employee fight against her lack of confidence.

Ms. Durkin started a “confidence log,” as suggested by a mentor, noting times when she felt most intimidated or most confident. The log, plus input from colleagues, helped her see that she was spending an unnecessary amount of time during presentations justifying her research methods rather than describing her findings. And if certain individuals tended to intimidate her, “I worked on building trusting relationships with them,” she says. Her confidence has risen sharply, but it remains “a work in progress—a muscle that you always have to work on,” says Ms. Durkin, now 32. She was recently promoted to lead a product-marketing team.

What confidence logs do particularly well is remind us that we've acted with confidence in the past and that we've experienced successes at work. Too often, we focus on our missteps, shortcomings, and the times when we failed, and forget all those times we succeeded. And so, keeping a log of these positive occurrences serves as a good reference to turn to when we're feeling not so confident, or have been made to feel small by someone. Our log reminds us of our better moments and we gain confidence in the process.

Along with keeping a confidence log, there are other things you can do to build confidence at work, including: 1) Not apologizing before you speak, 2) Enlisting a trusted coworker to intervene in a meeting if you're interrupted to remind others of your point or idea, and 3) Not ending your sentences on a rising tone as though you're inserting a question mark, and instead making sure that all your sentences are declarative, ending with a strong period.

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