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Guest Host: Susan Page
When journalists Katty Kay and Claire Shipman interviewed high-powered women, they noticed something unexpected. These women were leaders in their fields – CEOs and politicians – yet almost all expressed a lack of confidence in their abilities or worth. In a new book, Kay and Shipman try to figure out why. They meet with neuroscientists and psychologists to understand the new research on confidence. While it is partly influenced by genetics, self-assurance can be learned. Kay and Shipman argue that women can become more confident if they make an effort to take more risks and start to care less about pleasing people and perfection.
- Claire Shipman contributor to ABCNEWS' Good Morning Amerca. She is the former White House correspondent for NBC News.
- Katty Kay Washington correspondent and anchor for BBC World News America.
Take “The Confidence Assessment”
Take Kay and Shipman’s Confidence Assessment, created with the help of Dr. Richard Petty, of Ohio State University, Dr. Kenneth DeMarree of the University at Buffalo, and Dr. Pablo Briñol at the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid.
Read An Excerpt
An excerpt from “The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance–What Women Should Know.” Courtesy Harper Collins Publishers. All Rights Reserved.
MS. SUSAN PAGEThanks for joining us. I'm Susan Page of USA Today sitting in for Diane Rehm. She's visiting station KRCU in Cape Girardeau, Mo. Many highly successful women, despite their achievements, express doubts about their confidence in abilities. Compared to men, women tell research they don't consider themselves as ready for promotions.
MS. SUSAN PAGEWomen predict they'll do worse on tests, even when that's not true. In a new book, journalists Katty Kay and Claire Shipman try to figure out why many women lack confidence and if anything can be done about it. The title of their new book is "The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance--What Women Should Know." Katty Kay and Claire Shipman join me in the studio. Welcome to "The Diane Rehm Show."
MS. CLAIRE SHIPMANThank you, Susan.
MS. KATTY KAYThank you, Susan. It's great to be here to be doing the show with you finally.
PAGETwo guest hosts here in one room.
PAGEWe welcome our listeners to join our conversation a little later in the hour, our toll-free number, 1-800-433-8850. You can always send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Or find us on Facebook or Twitter. So what prompted you to write this book?
SHIPMANYou know, when we wrote our last book, "Womenomics," we were struck by so many of the women we interviewed confessing to us, not really even as part of the interview, that they might feel they didn't deserve a promotion they got. Or they would talk about their success in ways we use ourselves. Oh, I was just lucky.
SHIPMANI'm not sure how that happened. I don't know how all of this came to be. And we started to compare notes. And we thought, let's dig into this and see if this is more than just anecdotal. And we spent quite a bit of time digging into it. We found that there is, as you just mentioned, a lot of data that shows that women are less confident in many ways, and especially in the workplace, in our public lives, than men are.
PAGEAnd why do you think, Katty, are women less confident?
KAYI think there are a range of factors. Some of it is the fact that it's not a level playing field out there. Let's be honest. We often go into meetings, and we are the only woman there. Claire and I do television work. We'll often sit on television panels and be the only woman. I had it just the other day. I went into a meeting with the executive committee of a law firm, 14 men, two women. That kind of thing doesn't help your confidence.
KAYLet's face it. Some of it's genetic, and we can talk about that later. But some of it is things we do to ourselves. Women tend to carry criticism around with them. We have these thoughts running, running around in our heads, like hamsters in a wheel. I do it myself. The whole time, I'll ask one bad question in a show. And I'll be thinking about it 12 hours later, 12 days later. Guys seem to let that roll of them.
SHIPMANRumination, I mean, we've really -- so many women we've talked to when we talk about ruminating and dwelling on the negative, it's just really women seem to feel that that's something they do as well. And it's hard to shake.
PAGEAnd why do you think women do that? I mean, I know that I've done that, where you make a mistake and, why did I do that, and I wish I hadn't done that, whereas if you do something really great, if you ask a great question in an interview, do you ruminate about it 12 hours...
KAYWell, I forget that one.
PAGEAnd so why is it that women would -- is it a desire to be perfect? Or what accounts for that?
SHIPMANWell, it's interesting because they're -- this is a big field of scientific study right now because this all ties in to why often women tend to -- are more prone to depression and anxiety than men are. So there are a lot of doctors looking into this, neuroscientists. Part of it, some people think, is that we process serotonin in our brain differently and that that has an impact.
SHIPMANThere's some evidence that just, in looking at scans of our brains, looking at the way they're structured, that women have more -- different kind of connective tissue that literally our brains are more active. And I think whenever we say, our brains are more active, everybody nods. And the men say, oh, yes, that's true, too, I know that's true in that we just don't stop thinking. So I think there's not yet an answer as to where that comes from. But it's very certainly true. And it's not easy to stop.
KAYI wonder if some of it -- and we write about this in the book, too, Susan, doesn't come from sports. You know, you talk about your boys. My sons play soccer, always have done. They learn on the rough and tumble of the playing field. Sometimes you win, and sometimes you lose. But when you lose, you have to pick yourself up and carry on playing. And girls, we're doing more sports since Title IX, but we're not doing as much competitive sports. It's a great proving ground for confidence.
PAGEI think sports can be although I have to say my two boys, the worst athletes in America.
SHIPMANI hope they're not listening.
PAGEWell, they do love it when I talk about them on the air. That would be a lie. But it -- I was saying before the show that there are so many things I've learned by having two boys. And one is, get mad and get over it 'cause, unlike, you know, teenage girls, right, they're most endlessly nursing grudges. We do it even now. My kids will get in a fight. They'll get over it. And the other is, take a risk, what's the worst thing that happens? You could fail.
SHIPMANWell, this is key. And, again, genetics and society aside, one thing we've really learned about girls -- and this is fascinating to us -- is that, yes, they're growing up thinking that the possibilities are limitless. Little girls don't grow up anymore thinking, I can't be a scientist, I can't be a doc, I can't -- they can, but they're being raised to be too perfect.
SHIPMANAnd in that, they're internalizing everything we value as parents and teachers value, which is be good, color within the lines, be quiet, please people, get excellent grades all the time. They start to think, that's what we need to do, that's why we're valuable. They do that all the way through college like champions. I mean, the stats are amazing on girls in academic achievement. The real world doesn't work that way because failure and risk haven't been part of that. When you're trying to be perfect, you're not going to take risks.
KAYWell, one psychology professor, Carol Dweck, out in California said to us, if life was one long grade school, women would rule the world, but it's not. Somewhere between that environment of academia or in the classroom and the rough and tumble and the politics of professional life, the rules change. And women aren't playing so well. And I think that's what really interested us about this issue of confidence and how critical confidence is to our professional success.
PAGESo we want to talk about how you can raise confident girls, confident daughters. But first let's talk about those of us who are well past the age of childhood. How can adult women who feel like, I need to be more confident, I could succeed more, I could do more of what I want to do, if I was only more self-assured. It's the shape of their brains. It's their DNA. What can they do to change things?
SHIPMANWell, there are things you can do. I have to say there were times in our research journey that we were a little down. And we thought, I wonder if there's really much we can do about this. But what we did find in digging into the science was not only that confidence is, in part, genetic -- that shocked us, frankly.
SHIPMANWe didn't expect to find that. Some people say up to 25 percent. Some experts think it's up to 50 percent inherited. But we also found that confidence is, in large part, volitional as well and that it's a wonderful attribute that you can create with experience. And that experience is, guess what, risk and failure and doing things over and over again.
KAYWe spent some time trying to define what confidence is, how it's different from self-esteem, which is a general sense that you're valuable in the world. And we came across one definition which was confidence is the stuff that turns thoughts into action. I had an experience recently, a confidence-building experience.
KAYI went to a meeting at the White House. I got in there, and there's a whole load of guys, super experts on the Middle East. They speak Farsi and Arabic. And I'm sitting there thinking, oh, my God, they invited the wrong person. I'm just a general journalist. What am I doing here? We go through the meeting.
KAYWe get to the Q&A session. Every male hand goes up in the room, and they ask that question. In fact, their hands don't up. They just jump in with a question. I'm sitting there with this internal dialogue. I'm one of the only two women in this room. I have to ask a question. I'll have to -- but I'll blush, and I'll look stupid.
KAYAnd it won't be as smart as the other people. In the end, I forced myself to put my hand up. I forced that question out of my mouth. And, guess what, the sky didn't fall on my head. The earth didn't open up and swallow me whole. And it wasn't the most stupid question in the history of questions. And the next time I went to a White House briefing like that, it was much easier.
PAGEYou know, I have a story, which I've never told Diane. I don't know if she's listening to this. But I remember the day she called me the first time and asked if I wanted to try guest hosting. And what went through my head was, I cannot possibly do this. I've never guest hosted a radio show. I am doomed to failure. But you know what I said to Diane? I said, yes. And when I talk to young women who come in often and talk about their careers, I say, just say yes. An opportunity comes up, even if you think you can't do it, just say yes.
SHIPMANDon't overanalyze it because the data on women thinking they have to have 100 percent of the job qualifications before they'll take something on, ask for a promotion, and men will do it at 60 percent, it's -- think about how that plays out.
PAGE'Cause men assume either they'll succeed, or the worst thing that happens is they failed.
KAYThey'll learn it.
KAYOr they'll learn on the job. One of the most interesting studies we came across was by a psychology professor who's at the moment at the University of Milan. He put men and women in front of something that looked like a Rubik's Cube test on a computer. They sat down. They did it together. The women's scores came out significantly worse than the men's. And he looked over the data, and he found they just weren't answering half the questions. He put them back, and he said, okay, you have to answer the questions. When they answered the questions, the women did as well as the men.
KAYWe are holding ourselves back because we're not taking action.
PAGEAnd you write about research that overconfidence can be a big asset, thinking -- being too confident, being more confident than you're actually are competent.
SHIPMANOkay. That was very depressing. Katty and I remember this. It was about a year ago, sitting around the table. We're looking at all of our research notes. And Katty says, you know, when I talked to this Prof. Cameron Anderson at Berkeley, and he talks about if I put overconfidence can sometimes be a valuable -- and, in fact, sometimes confidence is more valuable than competence.
KAYAnd Claire said, we're not putting that in. We're not doing it.
SHIPMANAnd I said, what? That has to be wrong. How can that be accurate? And, in fact, what he found is he studied a group of college students and for a couple of semesters and had them take a really interesting survey at the beginning where he created some fake historical events and fake names and tested people's confidence. And the people who were overconfident naturally ticked the boxes saying, yes, I know what happened, yes, I know who that is.
SHIPMANAt the end of the semester, he found that those overconfident people were the most socially admired, were thought of as leaders by the group, and had their opinions listened to more. Now, I will caution that he did say the gap between your competence and your confidence cannot be too great, or that just will not work. There has to be some level of competence, but if you don't have confidence, you're clearly missing an important tool.
PAGEWe're going to take a short break. When we come back, we'll go to the phones. Our phone lines are open, 1-800-433-8850. And we'll read some of your emails, our email address, email@example.com. Stay with us.
PAGEWelcome back. I'm Susan Page of USA Today, sitting in for Diane Rehm. We're talking this hour about a new book, "The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance -- What Women Should Know." And the two co-authors are with me in the studio. Katty Kay, she's the Washington correspondent for BBC "World News America" and Claire Shipman, she's a contributor of ABC News "Good Morning America," former White House correspondent for NBC News.
PAGEThey co-wrote previously the New York Times best-seller "Womenomics." Now, in your book, "The Confidence Code," you have a confidence quiz, which people can take online. We've posted it on the drshow.org website. You have your own website for the book. What does this quiz tell you when you take it?
SHIPMANWe developed it with Dr. Richard Petty and his colleagues and he was the one who helped us with our definition of confidence. And what we're -- what it does essentially is tell you your level of general confidence compared to other people. It's also, we hope, going to be a research tool to try to gather a lot more information on women and confidence. It breaks down people by ethnicity, by income level, by profession.
SHIPMANNone of this has been done before. So we really want to get a good, solid look at, you know, the gender gap, and also just breaking down confidence to some extent and also measure self-esteem and some other confidence-like qualities and how those relate to confidence.
KAYThe quiz takes about five to seven minutes. Some of the questions might be confusing because you're asked things like what's the population of Columbus, OH. Now, no one knows really what the population of Columbus, OH is, but...
SHIPMANBut don't give people hints on how to answer this.
KAYYou're then ask how confident are you about your answer. And that's what the psychologists are looking for, not whether you know the answer, not whether you're accurate, it's whether you're confident about your beliefs and what you know. We were amazed at the reaction to the quiz. We've been thrilled. We though three or 400 people might take it if we were lucky. We've had 13,000 people in four days take the quiz. So we really hope we can...
PAGEThirteen thousand people in four days.
KAYThirteen thousand people in four days.
SHIPMANThe people running our website are working around the clock to make sure we don't have an Obamacare situation.
PAGEAnd you have a huge audience listening to you now. Where should people go if they want to take the quiz?
KAYGo to our website, www.theconfidencecode.com and the quiz is right there.
PAGENow, you went beyond yourself taking a confidence quiz, you actually had your genetic make-up identified to look at whether you had a particular gene. What was the gene that you were looking for?
SHIPMANWell, there's not one. What we did -- we have found that -- and, again, Susan, this research is all cutting-edge right now, as you know. the neuroscience of personality traits is something that's everywhere and people are digging into it now. But there are a number of genes that we found so far that do affect confidence. And they are genes that affect our serotonin levels. One is a serotonin transporter gene.
SHIPMANOne is known as the comp gene and that controls dopamine in our brains. Another one controls oxytocin and how it's delivered in our brains. And so, those were the three we identified. We went to two places. We went to 23andMe while we were still able to go to 23andMe, now you're not able to anymore because the FDA decided that, for now, they didn't want the public able to easily get that genetic information. We also tested with Genomind. They run a panel of tests through doctors usually. And we got our results and we were surprised.
SHIPMANIt's funny taking your -- getting your genes tested. Claire and I were very interested in the genetics of confidence. And Claire came up with this great idea, let's get our genes tested. And I said, yeah, yeah, fine. So you get the testing thing, I didn't -- this is, you know, perhaps my lackadaisical attitude to things. Anyway, you spit into a tube, you send it off in a FedEx envelope and then you spend two weeks sweating every day and waiting for your results to come back.
KAYAnd it's a bit like waiting for your SAT results to come back. And our results came back and people who read the book will find out they were not exactly what we expected.
PAGEHow are they not what you're expecting?
SHIPMANWell, I think I expected to have middle -- I thought, well, if I have maybe one highly confident gene and one not, Because I do feel -- there are times where I feel high anxiety. I certainly struggle with confidence. I figured I wouldn't have a perfect, quote-unquote, "confidence genes." I certainly felt Katty would have very high confidence genes because I have a lot of confidence in my colleague.
SHIPMANWell, we both really got the confidence short straw. We both got -- we're more worriers than warriors and we both tend to just not be as confident as we might be genetically. I don't know how else to put it.
PAGEHow can that possibly be the case here? Two highly accomplished women at the top of your fields, how could you be at the bottom end of the confidence genetic pool?
KAYBecause as we said in the beginning, confidence is not the whole -- I mean, genetics is not the whole story of confidence. Genes account for something like 25 to 50 percent of our confidence levels. The rest is what psychologists call volitional. It's our choice. Basically, you can choose to be confident or not. And one neurologist put it to us really well, you're born with a concrete highway.
KAYYou have that concrete highway for your whole life. But during the course of your life, you build overpasses and tunnels and other roads, those are the choices you make in life, the psychological choices. We have both made choices in life and put ourselves in situations that have built our confidence.
SHIPMANAnd it's also your environment, by the way. I mean, this is the frontiers of neuroscience are all about epigenetics now and the impact that...
PAGEAnd epigenetics, what is that?
SHIPMANEpigenetics is the impact that environment has on your genes in the course of your own lifetime. That you come out with a certain genetic blueprint and in fact your environment can alter the expression of your genes depending on what happens. So trauma matters, supportive environment matters. We went to see incredible people studying all of these in monkeys at the NIH and the results are just amazing in terms of the impact of environment on genes.
PAGEAnd you can also, and I believe this strongly, you can decide who you want to be and you can change who you are. I mean, I'm sure there are limits, but there is free will at work here if you are determined to do something.
KAYWhen I got my results, genetic results on confidence, I had the classic, I think, female reaction which is why aren't my results perfect? Why aren't my genes perfect? What have I done wrong? And why didn't I make better genes for myself? I'm nuts. You know how much of a ridiculous perfectionist I am. Once I got over the idea that I couldn't actually change my genes, I came to the conclusion, and this what we conclude in the book, in a way. We are living examples that the choices you make -- I am a confident person, but it's because of the things I've done, clearly not because of my genes.
PAGELet's go back to the phones and talk to some of our listeners. Let's talk first to Michael (sp?) who's calling us from Miami. Hi, Michael.
MICHAELHi, thank you for taking my call. My question has -- I guess you were sort of on the track of my question. I was concerned about how this could be found, this confidentiality complex, if you will. Is it universal or is there a cultural context that might be added into this? Say, some cultures, some ethnic groups, you know, might be more confident in just women alone as opposed to others. I'm from Miami, obviously there's a multicultural diversity here. And I've seen this from a different, you know, just through different cultures and background and I'm just curious if that gets factored into this.
SHIPMANAbsolutely. I mean, culture plays an important in the society in which you grow up and you're dealing, especially for women. Women have different opportunities in different cultures. And, again, in terms of the -- your environment affecting your confidence level, how much ability you have to take risks to grow, to fail, to develop a sense of resilience is critical. And cultures that encourage in that in boys and girls are raising confident adults.
SHIPMANCultures that don't encourage that as much, that are maybe more focused on perfectionism aren't. There's a lot of research, Michael, still going on, however, about the genetics and culture and whether certain genes are more prevalent in certain cultures. And the jury is really still out on that. There are no conclusions about that.
KAYYou know what, Michael, it would great if you could do for us, we would love men to take our confidence quiz because, really, what we're trying to build is a database of confidence in the country. We're comparing men and women, but it'd be great if men took it, too. And the other thing we are trying to do in the quiz I think, as Claire mentioned earlier, is breakdown different ethnicities, income groups and to see whether how confidence pans out in different cultures. So we'd love it if you took the quiz.
PAGEMichael, you and other male listeners, please go on and take that quiz. Do you think there is a culture our country that has really encouraged women to be confident?
KAYWe interviewed Christine Lagarde for the book, who is the first female head of the IMF, French of course. And we asked her exactly that question. She travels around the world all the time. She always speaks to women groups. Is there a country in the world where women are more confident than others? Guess where she came up with? The Philippines. A Catholic country where, as we know, a lot of the women actually work as domestic servants in other countries. You would never think of that. But she said the women from the Philippines, I would love to investigate why, are the most confident women she'd met.
SHIPMANVery strong women there. And the women do have a real voice in the Philippines and a political voice. But that was something we actually wanted to look at.
PAGEDid you -- I think Christine Lagarde was the person you identified in the book as someone who carries a list around in her pocket.
PAGETell us about the list.
SHIPMANA great story. We were moderating a panel at the State Department at one point and she was the keynote speaker and she talked about the fact that she goes around the world tirelessly, talking to heads of corporations, heads of governments about the need to get women to the top because we know this data. The more women at the top of companies, at enterprises, the more successful they are. It's been measured.
SHIPMANAnd a lot of people understand this. She's lobbying the holdouts. But she says she got so tired of hearing what so many of us hear, which is we would love to have more qualified women on boards. We just don't know any. We can't find them. She got so tired of that that she created a list that she carries with her. And when she hears it, she pulls it out and she hands it over. And I have to tell you, the response we've had to that already is amazing. People are saying, I want to do that in my industry. I want to create a list and start carrying. Love it.
PAGEI have a kind of related story. When I applied to come to the Washington bureau of Newsday, now this was years ago, so maybe things are different. One of the people who I talked to at Newsday, I was a reporter on Long Island at that time said, but we already have a woman in Washington.
KAYThat slot is taken.
PAGEYou know, I'm Susan Page and you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." We're taking your calls. And in fact we have, speaking of accomplished woman, a very accomplished on the phone who has called in to "The Diane Rehm Show," although she has often been a guest on "The Diane Rehm Show," Deborah Tannen. Deborah Tannen, welcome back.
MS. DEBORAH TANNENHi. Always a pleasure to be on.
PAGEOn in any capacity. Deborah Tannen, of course, the linguist and researcher and author. And we'd love to hear your perspective on this.
TANNENYeah. I'm so excited that you're discussing this topic and I feel I have something to add. Everything that's been said I think is completely accurate and important. But I would love to add the topic that sometimes women are perceived as lacking confidence when that's actually not the case. The research that I did led to the book, "Talking From 9 to 5: Women and Men at Work." When I asked people, a particular was not promoted, not hired, more often than not I was told she lacked confidence.
TANNENThe parallel thing I was told relating to men was he's arrogant. And in some sense, those are two sides of the same coin of ways of speaking that women and men are taught. And frequently, women were seen as lacking confidence because they did things like, say I'm sorry, and I did like many other researchers find that women said I'm sorry more than men. And sometimes it really was not an apology.
TANNENIt wasn't that they thought everything was their fault, it was taking into account the other person's experience. It was, I'm sorry that's happened. Or ways of telling people what to do. So women in managerial positions, for example, might -- this was a real case I'll tell you. A president of university was overheard saying to her secretary, could you do me a favor and went on and asked her to do something.
TANNENAnd a member of the board of trustees took her side because he overheard it and said, don't forget you're the president. So he thought she lacked confidence. She didn't have the confidence to tell her own secretary to do something. And she explained to me it was because she was confident that she spoke that way. And I heard that from many women in managerial positions that they thought that when they heard guys giving orders in a (word?) way, gee, he must lack confidence.
TANNENYou think he has to throw his weight around. Because I'm confident, I know she's going to do what I tell her to do. So, I can do it in a way that will save face for the other person. So obviously I have a lot to say on this. But the point then is I think we have to keep that in mind as well in addition to all these other important insights into confidence that sometimes ways of talking lead us to interpret internal states that may not really, you know, be accurate about what those people are feeling.
SHIPMANDeborah, this is so interesting on so many levels because, first of all, we have a section in the book and I'm sure you've talked about this too on upspeak. We had a psychologist...
SHIPMAN...talk to us about the fact that women use upspeak and not the valley girl.
PAGESo demonstrate upspeak to us.
SHIPMANAll right, let me see if I can. I've tried to edit it out of my -- so do you think, not would that be okay. You do it, Katty.
TANNENI can do it.
PAGEAll right, go ahead, Deborah.
TANNENYou -- it sounds like a question even though it's a statement. It's what linguists call rising intonation.
PAGEI'm gonna pick up the bagels or I get coffee. And...
KAYHow about this? The difference between, let's go with that marketing strategy. And let's go with that marketing strategy.
KAYOne sounds like a question and it seems to suggest that the person is not confident about what they're saying and women do it a lot more than men.
SHIPMANWhat was interesting about what Dr. Peterson found who talked to us about this is that it really does reflect the desire on the part of women to be conciliators, to get along. It doesn't necessarily reflect a lack of certainty, it reflects an ability, a need to draw people in. But I also think that that the point you're making is critical, which is that, and Christine Lagarde said that to us, maybe we need to do away with upspeak.
SHIPMANI don't think it sounds great, no matter what the motivation. But women cannot try to be men in seeking confidence. We have to develop our own style and get people to understand.
PAGEI would say more than that, women shouldn't want to be like men when it comes to some of these things, because in some of these things, women have a better way of doing it if you can do it in a way that's understood. And, Deborah, you mentioned different ways of talking. I think there are different ways of listening that sometimes catch us in a bind, too. How many times have you been in a meeting and you said something and no one reacted? And then the man next to you says it and it's like, oh, that's a great idea. We have to do that.
TANNENYeah, no, absolutely. And I think this what you're calling uptalk is exactly one of the things I'm referring to where women are seen as lacking confidence because of ways of talking. And that does sometimes lead to women not getting credit for something that they said at a meeting. It's one thing I advice there is women can watch out for each other. It's hard to say, hey, didn't I say that? But easier to say, wait a minute, Anne said that.
TANNENBut I think the final point maybe we need to make is that, yeah, women are in what I call -- at least I've called -- a double bind. That if we talk in ways that sound confident, that would come across as confidence, if a man spoke that way, women are often seen as too aggressive.
KAYWe write about this a lot in the book about the -- all of the studies that show that when women behave as men do in the workplace they are penalized for it professionally and socially. And they're not just penalized by men, they're penalized by women too. When we speak as much as a man does in a meeting or in a leadership context, it's not just the men that have a bad reaction to it, but actually the women do as well. And I think this gets back to what Christine Lagarde's point was is, we need to be authentic.
PAGEWe're going to have to take a short break. Deborah Tannen, thank you so much for joining us on the show.
TANNENIt's been great and the book sounds great, too. Thanks.
PAGEWe're going to take a short break and then we'll come back. We'll come back for your calls and questions. We're also going to discuss what mothers and fathers can do to raise confident daughters. Stay with us.
PAGEWelcome back. I'm Susan Page of USA Today sitting in this hour for Diane Rehm. With me in the studio, Claire Shipman and Katty Kay. They are co-authors of a new book, "The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance--What Women Should Know." Let's talk about what parents should know. Parents of daughters want to raise confident daughters. How do they go about doing that?
KAYI have two daughters, one who's 17 and one who's 8. And they are very, very different. My oldest child is a classic good girl. She's a people pleaser. She works really hard. She colors within the lines, as Claire says. And I think that I have realized that I have in some ways relied on her to be that person too much. I have four kids. And she is just great at looking after everybody, checking they've had their bath, organizing dinner. And of course I'm a busy woman, and so I think I've sort of over-relied on her to play that role.
KAYThe problem with that is that you create somebody who is more afraid of sometimes rocking the boat, of not always being the good perfect girl because when we ask for a pay rise or we put ourselves up for a promotion that we don't think we're quite qualified for or we want to run for PTA or raise our hand in the church meeting, we have to be a little bit bold. And we have to be able to do things that other people might not always love. Sometimes we have to annoy people. And I think that's something that we as parents need to realize. Don't always assume your girls are going to be the perfect good girl.
SHIPMANRisk, let them risk. Let them fail, whether it's in sports. You can let them try to play -- one of the interesting things we found about sports is they play it young, but as they hit puberty, girls tend to quit at a much higher level than the boys do. And that's a critical moment where they could really use those lessons of risk and failure and self-assurance.
PAGEBut it is, I think, more complicated to be a girl than to be a boy. Now, maybe that's some, but just seems to me that you've got more things to figure out. You get more cross messages. Your lives tend to be more complicated. Is that true?
SHIPMANThere is no question that it is more work raising a girl. I mean, I have an 8-year-old daughter, and she is a tomboy. She doesn't like to comb her hair. She doesn't seem to want to please people. And it's only through writing this book that I've understood, oh, she's going to be well served. I may not survive raising Della, but she will be a strong girl. And I think learning to embrace some of that is important.
KAYAnd one tip for boys and for girls that we loved in the book -- it came from a friend of ours, Jane Wurwand, who's actually the founder of Dermalogica, who said, get your children to do things that they might find a little bit different. Come up with a list of things: fry an egg, mend a hem, change a light bulb, take the bus.
KAYJust do -- have little things that they can take ownership of that they achieve.
SHIPMANAnd master anything. This is what we love about mastery, and it's such a relief, this idea...
KAYMastery for parents.
SHIPMANIt doesn't matter what they master. It could be the violin. It could be cooking. That lesson is transferrable. And that's a relief. You don't have to know now what they should be doing and go completely tiger mom. Just pick one thing.
PAGEDo you think that some of the forces that have made maybe the current generation of adult women often lacked confidence? Does it still apply to women, to girls who are growing up now, or have there been enough changes in expectations and opportunities for girls that it's less true?
KAYWe sort of assumed that that might be the case, that younger women might be more confident than we were. The reaction actually we've had to the book from college campuses has been amazing, lots and lots of young women taking the quiz, wanting to know more about confidence. And when we reached out to young women as our research, we found actually they sound very like we did at their age.
KAYWe interviewed Clara Shih. She's amazing. She is the founder of Hearsay Social Media Company. She was on the board of Starbucks at 29, graduated from Stanford in computer sciences. She said she went through Stanford thinking, whenever the course got really hard, she wasn't deserving to be there. Everyone else seemed to find it so easy. She came out top of her class. And she said she'd gone through the university like an imposter, that she was a bit -- didn't quite deserve her place. Young women are still feeling this.
SHIPMANI think they know -- I think what is substantially different is they understand the opportunity is there. The horizon is there for them. And that's a huge change.
PAGEYou know, they -- I wonder if there's another difference, maybe a subtle one, in that it's okay to talk about it. 'Cause I know at the point I was, say, starting out at the White House as a beat, I would not have acknowledged a lack -- I would have been afraid to acknowledge a lack of confidence.
SHIPMANThe death knell, right? I mean, I felt to acknowledge -- you don't know. Somebody asked us the other day. Jodi Kantor, when we were talking, she said, how do you feel about saying I don't know on the air? I thought, at the White House, when I was younger, never, I never could have said I don't know on the air. Now, I'm much more comfortable saying that.
PAGEOr you do what politicians do. You just answer some other question.
SHIPMANWell, yes. There are many tricks we use.
PAGEHere's an email from Chris who's writing us from Ontario. He writes, "An engineering friend of mine told me that the reason why there aren't more women in engineering is because a boy who has a B+ in math thinks he's good at math while a girl who has an A- in math doesn't think she's good at math."
KAYChris, you are so right.
SHIPMANTalk about the David Dunning...
KAYAnd it's not just that you think this. It's actually true. The studies are there to back this up. Columbia University has done a study showing that men overestimate their abilities by 30 percent.
SHIPMANIn some cases.
SHIPMANNot every man, but...
KAYBut we interviewed one professor, Dave Dunning, at Cornell University, who told us, you know, he would see students in a math PhD program. When the going got tough, as it (word?) does -- it's a math PhD program -- the men would say, wow, this course is hard. The women would say, you see, I'm not good enough. And it's that difference of perspective that is changing the way we feel about how able we are. And this is why we wrote the book because it is holding us back from taking opportunities.
PAGELet's talk to Connie. She's calling us from Houston, Texas. Connie, hi. Thanks for being with us.
CONNIEOh, I'm so glad to be able to speak with all of you. I had the good fortune to go to an all-girl high school, to a boarding school on the East coast. So my qualms of confidence had more to do with my academic ability and not so much with gender. I didn't have to sort through all of the things that are happening in high school with relationships with boys. So I would like to know what you feel about the efficacy of all-girl systems of education. And what are the best ways to educate girls, and especially that girl to woman transition?
SHIPMANYou know, it's interesting, Connie. Welcome, by the way. My parents are from Texas. I have so many relatives in Texas, love the state. We've had a lot of -- we've talked to a lot of people about the all-girls versus co-ed education, and all-boys, by the way, which many people think is useful.
SHIPMANAnd it certainly removes one element that I think can be intimidating at a really critical time, especially for girls. The only problem is is that what they also find is that, in life, if you're going to have to learn to deal with the testosterone around you, it can also be useful to learn that at an early age. And so I think there seem to be pros and cons in the minds of many experts.
SHIPMANAnd I will also say that the other thing we've really found is not so much that -- what we need is teachers and parents to understand that girls should be allowed to be loud in class and just make -- botch things up -- I'm not sure how I'm allowed to put that on the air -- botch things up, make a mess of things, not count on the girls to be the ones holding those classes together. So it's something the teachers need to think about.
KAYConnie, when we were researching the book, I spent a day at Georgetown University with a bunch of really impressive young women who were thinking of running for student office. And one of them said to me, you know what? I went to an all-girls boarding school, just like you, and I was never afraid of raising my hand in class to ask a question.
KAYAnd then she got to Georgetown, co-ed, and she found that she'd go into these classes. And she'd look around, and none of the girls were raising their hand. And she'd think, what the heck? Why aren't they raising their hand? I'm so used to it. And here's what she then said. And after a while, I started to act like the other girls. And in order to fit in, I would censor myself, and I stopped raising my hand in class.
PAGEAnd of course the problem is the world is full of both men and women.
SHIPMANLife is co-ed.
PAGELife is co-ed. Connie, thanks so much for calling us.
CONNIEBut, you know, I did not have that experience. I learned about boys by having a father and two brothers. And I learned to handle men and women situations when I was more mature, when I went off to college, and I was in geology. So I was one of two girls in a class full of boys. And that never stopped me.
SHIPMANWell, and, again, you're lucky that you had that upbringing and the smarts to pull it off.
PAGEConnie, thank you so much for your call. Here's an email we've gotten from Owen on a difficult topic. He says, "One thing I believe cannot be ignored in this conversation are the statistics on childhood sexual abuse, which are still showing that one in three women under the age of 18 are sexually abused. What are the guests' opinion on the impacts of abuse upon confidence later in life?" Do you have any sense of that?
SHIPMANWe really don't. I have to -- here is a moment where I will actually confidently say I don't know. And I think -- I really do think, Susan, that this is part of what we talk about. We have a chapter in the book where we talk about the unlevel playing field. And there are so many factors out there that affect women in ways that just don't affect men.
SHIPMANAnd we have to acknowledge that. We are in no way saying -- somebody said to us at one point, you're making it sound as though this is all about women. We just have to fix this ourselves. And, no, we're writing a book about something we actually have some control over. But understanding that there are these other factors out there is critical and...
PAGEAnd I know, and I think that's a great topic for some future study. You know, you're right. And an example of what you're talking about, Claire, what happened when musical auditions for orchestras became behind screen, so that the people listening to the applicants couldn't tell what gender they were. What did they find in that?
KAYThat was amazing. We were trying to look for these examples where there is an unlevel playing field. And in the National Symphony Orchestra, there had been many more men performers than women. So a couple of decades ago, they decided to put up -- in the late '90s, they put up a big screen. And when you auditioned for the orchestra, you sat behind the screen, so the judges only heard the playing. They couldn't see whether it was a man or a woman who was auditioning. And guess what? The number of women who were accepted shot up.
PAGEI'm Susan Page, and you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Let's take another call. We'll go to Martha. She's calling us from Rochester, N.Y. Martha, thank you for holding on.
MARTHAHi. I've got a video, and it was called the Bechdel test. And what she talked about was, in movies, the way to -- she just wanted people to be aware of the -- how everything's slanted towards the men. She said, look and see if there are at least two women, if the women have names, and if they talk to each other about something other than just boys.
MARTHAAnd when you start to think about that, it's like, yes, we now have Scarlett Johansson and, you know, she's a superhero. But does she talk to another woman? Are there women in power talking to each other so that we actually see how women interact and how their voice does go up at the end, that it's okay? They're still very bright powerful women.
PAGEMartha, thank you so much for your call. Claire.
SHIPMANMartha, thank you. I could not agree with you more. Raising my superhero-loving daughter, I realized at a certain point -- I looked around. For years, she was mad at me that she was a girl because she couldn't grow up to be Batman. And I never contemplated this as a girl because I hadn't wanted to be Batman.
SHIPMANBut when I started to look around -- and thought, right, who are the coolest superheroes out there? They're all men. And I started to get so mad. And I still don't understand it. Hollywood, make a cool superhero for women. And people say to me, Wonder Woman. Look, I love Wonder Woman for her time. I admire her. But we don't need to wear skimpy costumes and sexy boots.
KAYAnd make a superhero -- right -- a superhero for girls who doesn't look like Barbie.
SHIPMANAnd more to the point, exactly. Great roles for women. I couldn't agree more.
PAGESo talk about tips, tips for our listeners who are thinking, I want to be more confident. What can I do?
KAYIf there's one thing you should learn from the studies that we've done is that confidence is about taking action, that you need to go a little bit outside your comfort zone. You need to do things that you might find a little bit hard. Whether it's walking across the room to meet the interesting stranger at a party or asking for a pay raise or putting yourself up for president of your PTA, you need to act. You may not always succeed. You will hit hurdles. But you need to keep going through that. And you will learn during that process that you can build your confidence.
SHIPMANOne of the phrases we talk about that we think just encapsulates what women need to do is fail fast. It's a techie buzz phrase. And it's really all about why failure is actually a success. You need to fail a lot these days to learn and move on. And it's the way business works. Nobody wants to grow something for five years and see if it works.
SHIPMANYou do it for a few months. You try it. It's gone. Boom. Test it. And women need to start to embrace failure as part of success. The other interesting thing is we found is killing the NATs, the negative automatic thoughts, those ruminating thoughts. Think about them -- stop them with one alternative thought. And sometimes you can stop that ruminating before it becomes a cycle.
PAGESo if you've asked a bad question in an interview and you're afterwards thinking, oh, why did I ask such a stupid question in that interview, what would you do to stop it?
SHIPMANIt could be anything. You could say to yourself, I bet you nobody noticed but me. You could think to yourself, I've just asked five other fantastic questions. You could think to yourself, I've actually done that before, and it didn't really matter. You could think to yourself, well, that might have made some listeners feel good because they'll know I'm not perfect. Any alternative explanation actually just gets your mind to stop.
KAYOne neurologist said to us that she had found herself having these negative thoughts that so many women had, as she was coming home on the bus in the evening. Why didn't I get that deadline done on time?
SHIPMANI mean, a brilliant woman.
KAYOne of the most brilliant women we know. And she started coming up with a system she called 3:1. She would actually come up with three good things that she'd done that day instead. I spoke to the new intern and gave him a bit of my time. I wrote a good paragraph for my research program. I put in a grant application. And you have to keep doing it. Every time the negative thought comes up, tell yourself the three good things you did.
PAGEWell, that's a great idea. I'll tell you two things that I've done to be more confident. When I was younger and nervous about an interview, I would chew gum. It made me feel kind of bad, I mean, like a bad girl, like I was tougher than I was 'cause I was chewing gum. And that was a trick I used. And the one thing I do, even today, is if I'm going to, like, give a speech or something -- I'm a little nervous about it -- I'll wear a really bright color. Do you have any tricks like that?
KAYSitting up straight. It really does help. It's amazing. And you hear it from researchers, but pull your abs in, sit up straight, nod when you're listening to somebody or when you're speaking, and it projects a momentary aura of confidence.
SHIPMANThe other interesting trick I've used since we've done this research is something we call shifting the spotlight from me to we because women -- researchers say women are much more apt to feel confident speaking on behalf of a mission, an organization. I feel wonderful speaking on behalf of this book right now, thinking people might find it helpful. If we just had to sit and talk about Claire Shipman, and I thought I were being judged on me, I would be much more nervous.
PAGEAnd, you know, that might be a way in which women are different from many men...
PAGE...that we ought to embrace and expand. Thanks so much to Claire Shipman and Katty Kay for being with us this hour to talk about your new book. It's called "The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance--What Women Should Know." Thanks for being with us.
SHIPMANThank you, Susan.
PAGEI'm Susan Page of USA Today sitting in for Diane Rehm. Thanks for listening.
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