Overconfidence in the workplace continues to widen gender pay gap

Employers need to find a more equal recruitment and promotion system to address inequalities in the workplace arising from men’s overconfidence.
By: | April 25, 2023

Overconfidence among men is creating inequalities in the labour market such as the gender pay gap, with male employees 19% more likely than their female counterparts to overrate their abilities.

More pertinently, by the age of 42, 24% of men are taking on job positions such as CEO, compared to only 16% of women, with overconfidence in adolescence predicting mid-career success. According to a study by the University College London (UCL), which analysed data from the 1970 British Cohort Study that monitored 3,600 people born in Great Britain, overconfident individuals were more likely to be in top jobs at the age of 42, explaining up to 11% of the significant eight-percentage-point gender gap that skews towards men.

However, university attendance and subject choice were also essential factors, particularly among male graduates who were 58% more likely than female graduates to be in top jobs in fields such as science, technology, engineering, and maths (STEM) and had greater odds of being in a senior role in law, economics, and management (LEM).

To address the gender gap in top jobs, Nikki Shure, Associate Professor in Economics at UCL, and Anna Adamecz, Economics Research Associate at UCL, researchers of the study, urged employers to rethink how they recruit and promote people to address the gender gap in top jobs.

READ: Why gender equity in tech matters more than ever 

Giving regular feedback and encouraging women to apply for promotions sooner could help address this issue. However, the lack of childcare and flexibility in the workplace remains a significant barrier to career progression for women, with overconfidence losing its importance among those who have children.

The researchers emphasised that focusing on imposter syndrome or women being underconfident puts the onus on them to change, whereas the whole system needs to be revised to ensure greater equality.