29 May 2017
Mediocre man, aren't we all. Except of course politicians?
I can't really put my finger on the precise moment I embraced my own male mediocrity. It was more a dawning realisation.
Be it striding confidently onto stage to deliver a lecture with minimal preparation, having the sheer audacity to think I can pull off live TV or radio, or even sharing my thoughts with you here, its warm embrace is always with me.
In fact, I wear my mediocrity — or at least the confidence that comes with it — like armour. Most blokes do. It's almost a defining male characteristic.
And yet a growing body of research shows my masculine mettle is actually costing men, women and organisations dearly.
Thanks in large part to their brazen over-confidence, mediocre men are being promoted to senior roles — in science and other fields — ahead of vastly more qualified women, damaging productivity, research excellence and stunting everyone's performance as a result.
The good news, however, is that a reckoning is coming: evidence suggests the days of the mediocre man running the show are numbered.
Journalists Katty Kay and Claire Shipman have coined this measurable effect — that is, the notion that men are more self-assured than women — the confidence gap.
Success, they write in their book, The Confidence Code, "correlates just as closely with confidence as it does with competence".
In other words, confidence has somehow become a proxy for competence as a basis for success.
Indeed, numerous studies support their thesis. A 2011 study on The Emergence of Male Leadership in Competitive Environments found that men have a natural tendency to overrate their past performance on maths tasks by 30 per cent.
Ernesto Reuben, one of the study authors, almost apologetically described this behaviour as honest overconfidence
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