Leaning in: Is higher confidence the key to women’s career advancement?

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Women’s lack of confidence is commonly regarded as a key reason why women lag
behind men’s career outcomes. This paper interrogates this claim by examining
the empirical link between an individual’s confidence and job promotion prospects
through a gender lens. We use nationally-representative data for 7533 individuals
collected in the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA)
Survey in 2013. Confidence is captured by a psychometric survey instrument,
Achievement Motivation, which is dually comprised of ‘hope for success’ and ‘fear of
failure’. Using Oaxaca-Blinder decomposition, we detect that higher hope for success
is linked to a higher likelihood of job promotion, but only amongst men. This finding
provides no evidence to support the widespread advice commonly given to women
that they need to ‘lean in’ and show more confidence as the mechanism to close
gender gaps in the workplace.
Original languageEnglish
Article number36
Pages (from-to)1-37
Number of pages37
JournalAustralian Journal of Labour Economics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2020
Externally publishedYes


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