Today it was reported: “Some women just don’t have the confidence to become boss”. This conclusion is drawn from the Australian Bureau of Statistics and its latest Australian Social Trends report.
The ABS report says some women “are seen to have a lack of confidence in their abilities and are less likely to put their hands up for promotion”. As a (very odd) example, the ABS gives us the state of play on gender in our federal parliament : in the Senate 38% of members are women, compared to the Lower House, where just a quarter of MP’s are female.
“Particularly amibitous” people seem to go for the House of Representatives says the ABS (and has been roundly criticised for saying so).
Is the Senate the “soft option”? It’s news to Labor Senator Penny Wong (right) – our Minister for Finance and Regulation – who declares she is “very proud” to be a Senator. Likewise Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young.
Do women lack self belief ? Are we not “worthy”?
Sarrah Le Marquand rises from her seat. The Hoopla says: “Hear, Hear.” Read on…
SO women lack confidence. Tell us something we don’t know.
In its latest report, the ABS notes some women “are seen to have a lack of confidence in their abilities and are less likely to put their hands up for promotion” at work.
“Whereas men are willing to put their hand up for a role where they may not tick some or all of the boxes, some women may only apply for the job if they feel confident they are a good fit for the job,” it continues.
In a culture in which girls have traditionally been conditioned to play nice and not risk of alienating the menfolk by coming across as too opinionated or outspoken – only to then grow up and realise their looks are more highly prized than their intellect anyway – the lingering prevalence of self-doubt in young women is hardly surprising.
But citing it as the chief reason more women aren’t in senior roles or storming the lower house of federal parliament – which is precisely what the ABS report does – is just a little bit too convenient.
It’s also a claim that conveys a blissful ignorance of the very real obstacles that prevent female employees from making serious inroads in the corporate and political spheres.
It might have gone unnoticed by the ABS staff who compiled the report, but factors such as a dire undersupply of affordable childcare, entrenched sexism in certain industries, continuing lack of workplace flexibility and archaic pre-selection practices in the major political parties play far more of a role in preserving the glass ceiling than individual personality traits.
The assertion that a lack of ambition accounts for women being better represented in the Senate than the House of Representatives is particularly absurd. That parties historically confined to the upper house, such as the Australian Democrats and The Greens, have been more embracing of female candidates is the real reason for that disparity as opposed to the dubious theory that women inherently lack the desire to become Prime Minister.
Solely laying blame for the many challenges still faced by women climbing the political or corporate ladder at their own high-heeled feet is both erroneous and unfair.
Would the ABS dare to suggest that the chief disadvantage faced by Indigenous Australians is a lack of self-confidence? Or that overcoming entrenched racism is a snap so long as you have a little ambition?
There’s no denying the tendency for women to downplay their achievements and a reluctance to talk themselves up is a contributing factor in their failure to dominate the boardroom.
But these are factors overwhelming eclipsed by the practical concerns and genuine barriers women still face in the workplace. And no amount of glib platitudes about confidence will change that.
*Having worked as an entertainment journalist in several magazines and on television, Sarrah joined The Daily Telegraph in 2005 as the television writer. She is currently a columnist for The Daily Telegraph covering everything from politics to pop culture to parenthood. Sarrah also appears regularly on television and radio as a media commentator. She lives in Sydney with her husband and two sons.