Why do men oversell themselves and women undersell themselves?

ImageOver the past 15 years I have had eight different bosses.  Three of them have been men and five have been women.

Recently I have ‘acquired’ a male boss again for the first time in three years.  So far I am underwhelmed at his prowess and am wondering what on earth he said during the interview process to convince senior management that he was the person for the job.

I think there may be a fundamental difference in the way men and women approach the task of applying for roles and then selling themselves and I think it comes down to confidence.

Here is my theory. When women look at an advertised position their eyes scan down the list of requirements and pick out the one or two areas where they have had minimal or no experience and they immediately eliminate the possibility of applying for the role.  Men on the other hand look at the list and see only the one or two areas they have experience in and instantly think they are the man for the job.  The rest of the criteria, no problem, I am man I am invincible, I can do anything!

 Whatever happened to I am woman hear me roar?  It’s more like a squeak as we talk ourselves out of applying for some fantastic career opportunity that we are more than capable of doing.  Not only are we capable, but we will put everything we have into it to ensure we are successful. 

 Reflecting upon the way my female bosses have operated compared to my male bosses, I have to say one of the stand-out differences is that women seem to be much more hands on and practical than men.  Women will roll up their sleeves and get on with the job doing whatever they see that needs to be done.  My male bosses on the other hand seem to have seen themselves more in the role of conductor and delegator rather than practical doer. 

 So why is it that women are so lacking in confidence?  Why are we not able to speak up and confidently sell our skills and experience? Perhaps we are afraid of failure or perhaps we just need a big dose of testosterone and swagger.  It seems to work for our male colleagues.

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