Confidence Gap between men and women I

n recent years, researchers have con- ducted more and more studies on the difference in the confidence levels of

men and women. The findings of these studies might shock readers. Every day in our professional and personal lives, we are sur- rounded by men and wom- en that we respect and lean on for advice. You might not think that your female friend is less confident than your male friend, but when viewed on a larger scale the gaps are noticeable. In most industries, we

don’t see as many female executives as male execu- tives. In my line of work, in particular, we don’t see as many women put their name on the ballot as we see with men. Why is that? Many researchers believe

Myrna Driedger Broadway Journal

it is because of something called the Confidence Gap. This term refers to the schism between the confidence men ex- ude and the confidence women exude. Where do those confidence gaps start?

There have been studies that show that girls’ confidence can begin to decline as early as the age of eight. By the time girls are in their early teens, their confi- dence levels are significantly below those of their male counterparts. Young girls learn to doubt themselves and shy away from speaking up in much larger num- bers than boys their age. This is a major problem. It needs to

stop. These girls grow up to be women and

there are similar statistics about adult men and women. Women are less likely to speak up. Women are less likely to ask for a raise. Women are less likely to apply for a better job. And finally, something that is noticeable to voters at election time, women are less likely to put their name on the ballot.

It has been a passion of mine through-

out my political career to promote wom- en. In doing so, I have spent much time reflecting on the history of women earn- ing the right to vote here in Manitoba. The evolution of the enfranchisement of (most) Manitoba women is a fasci- nating one. Women, at the turn of the 20th century, fought for their right to vote with such a strong sense of surety. They fought hard and they fought peace- fully. The confidence these women had ensured that their point was heard. And was it ever! Women have advanced leaps and

bounds since Nellie McClung and her colleagues pursued equality and human rights for women. But there is still more work to be done. It is my belief that this work is the responsibility of everyone in our society, men included. We must en- courage girls and women to understand

that there are places for them ‘at the ta- ble’ so to speak.

It is important to me that I do my part

to encourage girls and women in my own line of work. I have hosted the Girl Guides organization at the legislature so that girls could take their seats and debate in the house, an initiative that had never happened in the history of the Mani- toba Legislature until last year. In the New Year I will be hosting Pathfind- ers for the same purpose. When you encourage children to speak up and speak their minds, it can have lasting effects. There are more and

more efforts every year to encourage girls and wom- en to enter the STEM

(science, technology, engineering and math) fields and we see the effects of this in the higher statistics of women in these male-dominated industries. The theory of critical mass in gender politics* refers to the percentage of par- ticipation needed for women’s voices to be heard. In many different industries, even that 30% bar is not being met. While there are many factors for this, one would certainly be the confidence gap between men and women. When I was a girl I was fortunate to

have a teacher encourage a sense of con- fidence in me. I am forever grateful to have had this teacher who has had a pro- found impact on my life. She fostered in me the understanding of how important it is to speak my mind. These strong foundations ensured that, as an adult, I brought with me the sense of confidence that I had developed throughout school. Being confident is important in every job and it was in every position I’ve held. Be- ing confident in myself was important while I worked as a nurse, then as the Executive Director of Child Find, then as an MLA, and now as Speaker of the Manitoba Legislative Assembly. I hope to see a day in the not-so-dis- tant-future when girls and boys, men and women are able to encounter fewer bar- riers in the path to reach their goals. En- suring girls grow into confident women is something that must be addressed at the roots. Fostering confidence in girls is an important piece of the puzzle. *Critical mass theory in gender politics and collective political action is defined as the critical number of personnel needed to affect policy and make a change not as the token but as an influential body. This num- ber has been placed at 30%, before women are able to make a substantial difference in politics.

Hon. Myrna Driedger is MLA for Charleswood and Speaker of the legislative assembly.


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