Illustrator: Ashley Siebels
Confidence in yourself can help you when you’re down, but if you let it blow up into hubris, it can blind you to reality.
That’s what researchers found in studies on confidence in the workplace: men are more confident —almost unquestioning— in their abilities and more confident that when things go wrong at work, it’s their gender that’s to blame.
Men would would rather work with men
Perhaps this confidence stems with knowing you’re the favorite in the office. A new MSN poll for Business Insider found that the majority of men and women still prefer the company of men. One in five men and women said they would rather work with a male colleague.
Perhaps this male confidence also stems from believing that your success is solely based on merit. Most men in the MSN poll believed that the gender gap is an issue of the past. 40% of men surveyed said that women are treated “very fairly” in the workplace while only 17% of women believed the same. This reinforces a separate study that found 58% of U.S. men in the workforce believed that “all obstacles to gender equality are gone.”
Millennial men believe men make better leaders
Multiples studies got the same result: men are very confident in their abilities—so confident that they suspect discrimination when they don’t get the job. Out of the 8,000 millennials aged between 18-34 that Qualtrics and Accel surveyed, 33% of millennial men believed that they had faced frequent gender discrimination at work, compared with the 21% of millennial women who felt the same way.
Moreover, millennial men were 50% more likely to believe that their gender was “affecting their career opportunities,” although Qualtrics didn’t say whether the men believed the effect was positive or negative, meaning whether the men believed they received better or worse opportunities because of their gender.
Meanwhile, women were more likely to believe in gender equality at work, with 41% believing that men and women are “judged by the same criteria in the workplace.”
The Qualtrics study also showed vastly different views between young men and women on what makes a good boss or leader.
For instance, millennial men are more likely than their female counterparts to believe that men are more effective leaders, with 38% of young men saying that compared to 14% of young women.
And, while millennial men and women both mostly had no preference for their boss’s gender, they tend to favor strictly gender-limited workplaces: Two-thirds of millennial women and 72% of men prefer to work with people of their own gender, Qualtrics found.
Confident that they’re right
Researchers have found that the reason that men feel that gender discrimination may keep them from jobs is that that they’re more openly confident about their abilities. In other words, men are more likely to believe that if they didn’t get the job, something was wrong with the process rather than a flaw in their own abilities.
One study found that in self-assessments on individual competence, men graded themselves higher than women. In fact, they’re so confident in themselves that a 2016 study found that men were more likely to be their own top expert on any subject. Looking into two decades of data on academic citations, researchers found that men self-cited themselves 70% more than women. Men are, in fact, their own consultants.
These beliefs in fairness and confidence are particularly interesting because they don’t hold up to reality as measured by a plethora of studies that show women are more likely than men to be discriminated against for their gender in the workplace.
The Financial Times surveyed 50 of the world’s largest banks and found that women in these positions were less likely to be promoted than men. Only 25.5% of senior bank roles in 2016 were held by women.
The workplace isn’t a fair battleground for men and women when it comes to wages either. Four studies found that when women negotiated for higher pay, they were more likely to be penalized for it from both men and women. The people on the other side of the negotiation said they would be less inclined to work with a women who negotiated, more likely to call her a “bad fit” to the company.
The main takeaway from these studies, which show self-image that’s contrary to reality, may be that more workplaces should train employees on how to fight their own subconscious biases on men and women in the workplace.