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Overcoming the Confidence Gap in I.T.

It’s no secret that women are underrepresented in technology careers. A 2017 report from the U.S. Department of Commerce reported that, while women filled 47% of all U.S jobs in 2015, they held only 24% of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) jobs.

Many factors contribute to this disparity – ranging from gender biases and social influences in education, to a scarcity of opportunities and female role models in the workplace. Another challenge that many women face when they do pursue tech careers is “imposter syndrome,” or the feeling of being inadequate or a fraud, despite evidence to the contrary.

In their book, The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance—What Women Should Know, authors Katty Kay and Claire Shipman argue that women too often underestimate their abilities, while men are more likely to overestimate their qualifications. Examples they point to include:

  • A 2003 study by the Cornell psychologist David Dunning and the Washington State University psychologist Joyce Ehrlinger: Before giving male and female college students a quiz on scientific reasoning, they asked them to rate their own scientific skills. The women rated themselves more negatively, 6.5 out of 10 on average, compared to 7.6 for the men. But the men and women performed similarly on the quiz – women scoring an average of 7.5 out of 10 right, and men 7.9.
  • A Hewlett-Packard review of personnel records that set a goal of determining how to get more women into top management positions: The company found that women working at HP only applied for a promotion when they believed they met 100% of the job requirements, while men applied when they thought they reached 60% of the qualifications.

Overcoming the confidence gap ­– particularly in tech fields that are still male-dominated – is a multifaceted issue. It’s not simply an issue of women feeling more self-assured and “leaning in” to fix the problem. Widespread change is possible when women receive support from many different sources to bolster their skills, confidence, and opportunities in their careers.

York Solutions’ returnship program, Barriers to Entry (B2E) program works to close the confidence gap in three main ways:

  1. Access: B2E aims to create a new pipeline of diverse IT talent to meet the needs of participating companies. It helps stay-at-home parents, veterans, and caregivers returning to the workforce – predominantly women and people of color – enter IT careers.
  2. Training: B2E’s paid training program, led by an instructor with executive-level experience, focuses on building comprehensive IT skills. Participants complete the program with strong competencies and increased confidence.
  3. Real-World Application: B2E graduates quickly see how their training and previous experience is relevant in the job market. They acquire high-demand IT skills, and they often secure desirable positions soon after finishing the program.

While the confidence gap is a layered and complex issue, York Solutions’ Barriers to Entry Program aligns with their mission to continually have a positive impact on the lives, careers, and futures of IT professionals within the communities they serve – and, ensures they are actively supporting people who are often underrepresented in technology.

Learn more about the benefits of the Barriers to Entry program.