Mar 17, 2021 - Economy & Business

The "confidence gap" in STEM jobs

Young women starting out in science and technology jobs consistently get lower starting salary offers than their male counterparts.

The big picture: Part of that initial pay gap can be explained by a "confidence gap," according to a new paper.

Details: The researchers — led by Adina Sterling, a professor at Stanford Graduate School of Business — asked freshly minted graduates to score themselves on common engineering tasks like prototyping.

  • Men typically scored themselves higher than women across the board.
  • When comparing men and women from the same schools, with the same majors and in the same GPA buckets, the gaps in self-efficacy scores proved to be strong predictors of salary gaps, Sterling tells Axios.
  • "On average, women in our sample that graduate with engineering degrees earn less than $61,000 annually, while men earn above $65,000 annually," the researchers write.

Why it matters: Confidence goes a long way in the job-seeking process, she says. "Employers offer salaries that are reflective of self-promotion behaviors, that are based on what applicants are saying about themselves."

  • That rewards men, who typically appear more confident than women.
  • High self-confidence — indicated by high self-efficacy scores — might also result in men applying to higher-level jobs with higher salaries right out of school.

The bottom line: Corporate America overvalues confidence, says Sterling. "We put so much emphasis on it, and we don’t have a way of vetting overconfidence."

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