Why Girls Beat Boys at School and Lose to Them at the Office

Hard work and discipline help girls outperform boys in class, but that advantage disappears in the work force. Is school the problem?

Comments: 253

  1. Lisa, your unconscious bias is showing. Why is it acceptable for girls to outperform boys at school? What are the reasons for that bias, since we know that everyone is equally good at everything?

  2. @bx: I can't tell if you're being facetious with that last comment, but I agree that the question of how schools can best serve all groups of people is worth exploring continuously, regardless of whoever appears to be benefiting most from the status quo at any given moment.

  3. @bx If children who do well at school do less well in the working world, it suggests that there is something dysfunctional that those children are learning. Something that does not suit them well in the real world. But - as many have pointed out, this could also be because women do tend to do more housework, childcare, and of course have pregnancy (statistically, not every woman of course).

  4. @bx, Lisa is praising boys in school for being cool and efficient in getting passing grades. I mentioned the point to a couple of teenagers, and their first question was, "Did a woman write that?" Sad!

  5. I know this will sound so 20th century, but do boys and girls have somewhat different biological destinies, and realization of these differences tend to kick in at a certain point in their schooling subtly changing their career and life focus? Well, I'm sorry for bringing it up.

  6. @Ronald B. Duke, you do have a point. As a girl it was very hard for me to convince anyone that I was really interested in science. Of course this was back in late 60s and 70s. But the fact is that while our biology differs from that of boys it's no reason to assume that, with the right "incentives" our interests and desires wouldn't remain the same. I wanted to be a physician. My parents made sure to tell me that they would not help me at all. In fact, each time I had some difficulties with my courses my mother would say that I ought to do something easier. Both of my parents made sure I knew how stupid they thought I was. If I'd been boy they would have encouraged me. I still see the same sort of things going on now and it's 50 years later. As long as our society refuses to accommodate the differences in men's and women's lives when it comes to child care and reproduction, and as long as we continue to praise men for being slightly involved while condemning women for being much more involved, we will see young girls feeling as if they have to overachieve. In other words, ask what girls hear and see at home and outside.

  7. @hen3ry Dear hen3ry, I always appreciate your comments calling attention to child abuse, discrimination against people with special needs, and other forms of harm. I am very sorry for all of your suffering. Thank you for putting your emotional welfare at risk every time you recall the harms you've been subjected to, in service of the public good. I hope many people have learned from your writings, and I wish you healing and peace.

  8. @hen3ry I don't think the problem is girls overachieving; it is more that boys are not as hardworking, committed, or honest about their own work or the work they take credit for. They know early on, on some level, that the system is rigged in their favor, and if they don't work together to suppress female talent, that balance could shift. Ronald also has a point about the biological differences, though. Females are born superior in almost every way. Men have to cheat to keep up.

  9. How about the fact that there are some of us out there who simply like to learn? I was well aware as girl that I didn't have to do all the work I did in grades K-12 to get the grades I got except in algebra, geometry, and trig. However, I liked learning. I enjoyed the process of discovering more about a topic. Then, when I got to college I discovered that learning wasn't the point. All that mattered was being able to spit back what the professors wanted to hear. Better yet, I discovered that no small number of these professors had no idea how to teach. I was ready to dig in and do research in college. What I got instead was more high school. I worked hard in college but because I didn't have a photographic memory and they did give us a lot of multiple guess tests, I didn't do as well. In addition, in college the professors didn't bother to encourage students who weren't at the very top of their classes. I learned less in college than I did in high school. I left college feeling like I was totally incompetent because I couldn't produce better grades despite my interest in my major. The problem with our educational system versus our workplaces is that at work being smart doesn't matter. It's how good a person is at office politics that counts.

  10. @hen3ry I'm sorry your college experience was so discouraging. It sounds like you had some terrible professors. My opinion is that multiple-choice exams have no place in a college curriculum. I had a few duds in my bunch, but most of my professors were excellent and nurtured a love of lifelong learning - and deep learning. I agree with your statement about work.

  11. @hen3ry: but...that's life. A job advice book I read once, back in my early 30s (when I too was struggling as you did) said your REAL JOB at any place of employment was ... NOT to do the best job, or work your hardest. It was to get along with others, and please your boss. Unfortunately that is a very realistic assessment. If you cannot do that, you may be better off in a solitary field -- working at home -- or in the kind of job where you report rarely to a boss or office, and don't have to "socialize".

  12. @hen3ry Sadly, you went to the wrong college.

  13. The parts about school performance are interesting. As for girl's success in business however, a lot more can be gleaned from running BLS data through STATA than with this kind of analysis. You need to fix the tenure gap if you want to fix the wage gap. It is funny, this was settled science, until the media started listening to themselves and the soft scientists instead of the ones who use Math.

  14. What's the evidence that perfectionism is gendered, statistically? And how does that mindset relate to "confidence"? The experiences in this oped spoke to me and I've seen it in many other people regardless of gender. I eventually burned out of software development because nothing was ever good enough to not always be thinking about work.

  15. Isn't it simpler to admit that girls and boys are different? That we may not be able to play a gender game to stop the difference. I have a son and a nephew and several nieces. Of course a wife to. Girls are more likely than boys to get that extra degree. Boys take more risks. Do we really expect to change this sort of difference? And please - don't comment that boys and girls overlaps on most behaviors. Yes they do. But men and apes share most of our genes. Still the differences are there.

  16. @Terry McKenna I like you comment but I think we encourage boys to take risks. We may not discourage girls from risk taking but they are not encouraged in the same way as boys. Being raised by my father I see and know the difference. It is truly striking the attitudes and skills that a father imparts through that male association. They include a multitude of things including expectations. If not for my father I would have otherwise thought those were things (making repairs with or without instructions, speaking up, interrupting men during their conversations to make my point, throwing and catching a baseball, "shaking it off" rather than initially crying, along with earning "real" money ) were just male traits based on genetics.

  17. @marielle sure, nothing is simple but at 67, I accept that some mysteries remain. I also tried to raise a son without pushing any boyish things. We never bought him toy guns, and encouraged art. We were not athletic either. Yet at 40, he ended not all that different from me. And we both occasionally are mystified by his mother (my wife of 42 years).

  18. @Terry McKenna yeah until you meet someone like me who historically has always been drawn to doing activities and interests our culture genders “male”. And, I’ve almost always been punished, paid less and/ or held back by people like you who insist our “differences” are in our dna. I work in a heavily male dominated field. I have to gight every day against this headwind. It’s exhausting and lonely.

  19. When I had surgery, I noticed that I was secretly was glad to see that both my surgeons were going to be women, as I expected them to be precise and well prepared. Not winging it. So there. I have said it.

  20. @Elisabeth The same for pilots. I like when I have female pilots because I know they probably had to work harder to get there.

  21. @Elisabeth My female veterinarian performed surgery on my dog around the same time a male surgeon performed surgery on me. My dog fared better.

  22. @Elisabeth I hope it doesn't disappoint you to hear that I had major surgery last summer and my surgeon, a man, did an exceptional job. I was so grateful for his expertise, experience, talent and optimism. And then there was a young nurse, a woman, who ran out of the room during my recovery because she couldn't handle the messy accidents that colon surgery can cause. It isn't the gender, it's the person.

  23. I was routinely edged out by 2 or 3 girls who worked much, much harder to get only slightly better results. In the workforce, the law of diminishing returns becomes critical. My casual observation is that men may be better at the equimarginal principle, which steers them to different tasks that have larger marginal gains once diminishing returns set in, and women will continue to grind through tasks to get tiny improvements even though their efforts could be better used elsewhere. I dunno, maybe this is sociological conditioning. For example, look at the sexes vastly different approaches to housekeeping and personal grooming. That's not genetic. It's learned behavior.

  24. @Joe Schmoe "My casual observation is that men may be better at the equimarginal principle, which steers them to different tasks that have larger marginal gains once diminishing returns set in, and women will continue to grind through tasks to get tiny improvements even though their efforts could be better used elsewhere." I've noticed that women are often assigned more grunt work for longer periods and if they try to ignore it, they are punished, where a man would not be.

  25. @Lifelong Reader I am unsure what your response means, as nothing I wrote had to do with the nature of the work, but how effort is applied. And I disagree--there are different types of grunt work. For example,men are generally sought for mundane IT issues because stereotypically we tend to be thought of as more gadget oriented. Although I well passed this phase in my career, I found nothing more infuriating and irritating. If you are capable of an cool, unbiased view of your work environment, examine who gets what kind of grunt work.

  26. @Joe Schmoe OK, Joe, I'll tell you the truth about female standards for housekeeping and grooming. We'll start with the different ways men and women use a toilet. Due to biology, a filthy, stinking bathroom is a lot more uncomfortable for a woman than for a man. Then, there's the kitchen. In the overwhelming majority of families, it's the mother who is expected to shop, cook, and clean up. Dirty dishes, disorganized cupboards, and spoiled food make her job harder than it has to be, and no mother wants to expose her baby to unsanitary sippy cups. There's no need to go into the details of childcare with its diaper changes, toilet training, messy feedings, filthy clothing, and so on, but you get the picture that, for a mother, home is just one dishtowel away from the Augean stables. Then there's the workplace and its wildly differing expectations for men and women. A disheveled, shaggy haired man in mismatched socks is an absent minded genius. A similarly disheveled woman is a bag lady. Nobody thinks that a drill sergeant who insists on clean barracks and impeccable uniforms or a woodworker who keeps his shop and his tools spotless is expressing unhealthy perfectionism, yet many men excuse their failure to carry their share of the load by insisting that the women they live with have unreasonable standards.

  27. Your analysis overllooks the fact that high school boys score substantially higher on standardized math and science tests even though the genders are much closer in math and science grades. You could attribute this to confidence, but you'd have to explain why girls confident in the classroom but not in the test room. Most analyses of STEM achievement involve many more factors than just confidence. Methinks you have oversimplified.

  28. @michjas Not anymore, and the differences were never significant. I remember this argument about women going to MIT, and the little mansplainer deflating angrily when the professor ran the stats through standard tests of difference. That was 1987.

  29. Where are you quoting that statistic about standardized tests from?

  30. @Multimodalmama In 2016, boys substantially outscored girls in ACT math and science. And that has been a steady trend. Is the ACT mansplaining?

  31. I see this dynamic with my two kids, who are sophomores in high school. My boy does just enough homework and studying, and does well. My girl studies hard but gets derailed by anything less than perfection of by competition from peers. Nothing like having girl/boy twins to see all the social dynamics play out in front of us!

  32. Hard work and discipline of girls beat the boys? How about the reality that teaching is a female dominated occupation and that the female teachers can’t relate to boys and see their typical behavior as dysfunctional resulting in high rates of boy discipline that turns them off to learning from their female teachers. The military has no trouble teaching males in a variety of technical fields. It should be no surprise that when girls get into the real world where performance against goals matters more than currying favor with their same sex role models their so called inherent advantages vanish. HIre more male teachers, and see the disparity vanish.

  33. @John Smith Interesting. It would be fairly easy to construct a statistical model to determine if teacher gender has anything to with academic performance. In fact class sizes over academic terms would yield large enough samples to determine this on an individual teacher basis. Teach performance evaluations could include this information.

  34. So a teacher’s bias against a boys “typical behaviors” explains lower grades? Maybe the girls just studied harder.

  35. @John Smith I'm a teacher in a secondary school where there are more male than female teachers. The male and female teachers BOTH complain about the same boys who don't do homework, don't bring pencils to class, don't keep track of any of their handouts, don't pay attention to what's going on in class, don't care about their grades, don't stay after school for extra help. These boys just don't care to have great grades. And the girls aren't "currying favor" as you say. They are simply doing their work, keeping track of their materials, and studying. That's not a gender thing; it's a responsible person thing. I would argue that part of the problem is cultural. It's not cool for boys to be good at school. It's cool to be good at sports. There is a bro culture even at a young age where boys will insult each other's masculinity for reading well and getting good grades. The motivation to be successful at school fades pretty quickly when it's not socially acceptable.

  36. It is very discouraging for girls to see boys being accepted at top colleges with lesser qualifications. There are many more highly qualified girls out there, but colleges are so eager to have gender balance that they take any chance to accept boys - helmet sports are a prime excuse. Take Tufts for example (Common Data Set): 8,864 males apply, of which 1483 get admitted. 12,237 females apply, of which 1644 get admitted. Girls know this. They get the message loud and clear, and it isn't about confidence.

  37. @Cousy Thank you for pointing this out. Affirmative action for male applicants is one of the dirtiest and least discussed secrets of the selective college admissions process. In addition to Tufts, many of its peers, in particular Brown, Wesleyan, and Vassar, are notorious for having extremely lopsided admissions rates for male and female applicants (the top Ivies and I believe Stanford are much more equal). If boys actually don’t have to work as hard to achieve the same outcome, why bother? And regarding the author’s point about a 91 vs. a 99, that might be true for isolated exams, but at least based on what I’ve seen at selective NYC (public) high schools, the difference between those two averages is the difference between being competitive for Yale vs. Binghamton or maybe NYU. And even with virtually perfect grades, girls—especially ones from the northeast—still face more daunting odds. Given the pressure to be admitted to an elite college in some circles, compulsive perfectionism is not an irrational response.

  38. @EM What about: Caltech: 16 percent admission rate for women, 6 percent for men, a 10-point gap. MIT: 13 percent for women, 6 percent for men, a 7-point gap. Carnegie Mellon: 28 percent for women, 22 percent for men, a 6-point gap. U. of Michigan: 35 percent for women, 30 percent for men, a 5-point gap. Cornell: 16 percent for women, 12 percent for men, a 4-point gap. U. of Virginia: 30 percent for women, 27 percent for men, a 3-point gap. I know plenty of women that would love to go to any of these schools...

  39. @Cousy Engineering schools will have the opposite bias, no?

  40. Great article! would be great so read apart two, "Why boys beat girls at the office and lose to them at school"

  41. There are plenty of girls and women who have the male habits described here, so I'm having a gender annoyance reaction right now. In any case, for less confident or more introverted young women and young men - to improve the caliber of their contributions in the future workplace, instead of telling them not to work so hard, we can approach this gap in an entirely different way - include confidence exercises and thorough instruction on oral presentation delivery to build those missing skills.

  42. @common sense advocate There is a huge mistake in your take on introversion. Introversion has nothing to do with lack of confidence or shyness. Extroverts can be shy or insecure, too. My casual observation is that extroverts have a large desire for validation by popular acclaim, i.e. greater insecurity, which is a tremendous character flaw, particularly in professional settings. That leads to re-enforced biases and group think, and is ultimately damaging to an organization. Most of our billionaire oligarchs, the president excluded, have strong introverted tendencies. As a manager, I have stressed and stood up for introversion. To some extent, it's critical for a high performance technical team (i.e. shut up and work). As these teams have higher productivity, they have higher profits, and higher wages.

  43. @Joe Schmoe - hi there, didn't mean to insult anyone - just suggesting that the answer lies more in public speaking and coping skills rather than this author suggesting that they should study/prepare less...we need that level of excellence in our businesses.

  44. @common sense advocate I didn't think you were trying to offend. I am merely an introvert advocate, trying to dispel misconceptions. As an introvert myself, I have never experienced insecurity, fear of public speaking, etc. For most of us, excessive socializing can be draining, i.e. whereas as some feel energized by it, we tend to be tired out. It has a lot to do with the fact that we tend to put greater thought into our words. That's probably the main difference.

  45. This article sounds to me like the author is blaming girls for the biases that they face in school. Teacher bias in favor of boys is well documented, so of course, boys are confident in their school work, and only do what's necessary to get by. It doesn't matter how often a girl is right, the teacher will call on a boy first. It doesn't matter how well a girl is articulating a position, a boy will be allowed to interrupt her. And on and on. It only makes sense that this kind of daily, implicit bias by teachers, administrators, fellow students and others makes boys confident and girls question themselves and their abilities. Of course, we should support our girls and let them know that 90% is still an A. But, insisting that girls take it easy on themselves is not even a bandaid on a really messy and difficult issue. There are two places where girls do not suffer the kinds of issues that Ms. Damour describes: all girls' schools, and home schooling. So, maybe we should be asking ourselves why that is, instead of asking our girls to do one more thing.

  46. @Winifred Haun Teachers favored bias towards boys is not well documented and several recent studies have shown that female teachers will grade female students more favorably than their male students for the same work. https://mitili.mit.edu/sites/default/files/project-documents/SEII-Discussion-Paper-2016.07-Terrier.pdf Female domination in early childhood education creates a monopoly in the learning environment that is clearly skewed in abling girls to succeed, while boys struggle. We learn differently. We have different energy levels. We take unruly boys who are unable to sit still for hours on end and put them on amphetamines. I don't know that academic success is even a good best marker for performance in a workplace. Competitiveness, desire for prestige, and disagreeableness come to mind as traits that would propel someone further in a career than their college GPA.

  47. This is a pretty thought-provoking essay, but Ms. Damour is really stressing how to decrease inefficient overwork among girls, rather than growing confidence. While cultivating more efficient work habits is valuable in its own right, I'm not convinced that it will be the confidence booster that produces more women in top positions. There's a lot that happens in the early lives of boys and girls that leads to the differences Damour is talking about; by the time girls reach high school and are staying up until 2 am, they're pretty well ingrained.

  48. You begin your essay with the argument that girls overwhelmingly outperform boys in school yet women are overwhelmingly underrepresented in “top positions” in a public companies, and therefore, something must be wrong to account for this incongruency. That something is called motherhood. Sure, we can cite examples of gender bias, even sexual harassment, but many women value having children over a top position in a company. Secondly, I think many people take umbrage in the fact that a “top position in a public company” is somehow held up as highest level of human achievement. What about community leaders who assemble food drives during a crisis, or lonely scientists making important discoveries in labs, or clergy people who help homeless people get back on their feet, or musicians and painters enriching people’s lives with their art, or investigative journalists keeping those people in top positions honest? In fact, what value to society does someone in a top position in a public company actually provide? Lastly, I see nothing wrong in being wonkish. Maybe if people in top positions were more well rounded and creative they would realize the folly of short-term thinking and the volatile economic systems that garnered their top positions in the first place.

  49. @C. M. Jones "Top positions" come along with "top" salaries and "top" benefits . . . in a society with heavily-rationed health care, increasingly out-of-reach education and housing costs, and a limited safety net anyone who wants to avoid the risk of starving under a bridge or dying from treatable illness needs to seek a good salary and benefits package. And many jobs that used to support a middle class life-style (teaching, science, journalism) often no longer do so. Talented young people today can't afford to set their ambitions on just doing nice works, the risk of falling out of the middle class is tremendous. Are you suggesting that women should be content with letting men earn the big bucks (which they will) and just sitting back and running PTA bake sales? We don't live in the 1950s any more.

  50. I would say the opposite has been in my case compared to this article. School was fine but the workforce is pushing bad over preparing habits. I breezed through school and did well in classes I cared about and made sure I passed in classes I didn't. I didn't spend all night on homework if I could cram to get it done in class. In college, I started to see how often I would be challenged by my male peers far more than they would challenge each other. I had to over prepare and be overly knowledgeable just to not get mansplained every second (and even that wasn't enough) In the workforce, I would randomly get praised or my credibility questioned by those who knew less than me but would still talk down to me on my area of expertise. Female co-workers never did this. Recently I brought up to my male manager my ideas in setting up a process for collaborating with development based on my years of experience and what does and doesn't work. He immediately dismissed my ideas even though he had never managed a designer and dev handoff before. He doesn't even do my job but was telling me that I must have just been working with "bad developers" if I felt I needed to collaborate with them at all. Now I'm finding myself having to over research, over explain, get second opinions, send him webinars and other data showing WHY I had the suggestions that I did because for some reason taking my word for it isn't working. I need to fight keeping my confidence every day.

  51. I work at a manufacturing plant for oilfield equipment and out of about 150 employees there are about 8 women. One runs the reception desk, another does purchasing, one does QC paperwork, one is the HR manager, two in accounting, and one does safety. I think #8 is in another part of management, haven't met her though. None of them seem to know exactly what the company produces or how the equipment works or have any interest whatsoever in any technical aspect. One lady surprised me though, she mentioned she was glad anytime she saw gasoline prices rising because she thought that was indicative of economic improvements in the sector. Anyway, I doubt you can legislate sexual dimorphism out of existence.

  52. @Grunchy Perhaps you should consider your company is blocking opportunities for woman who have a genuine interests in technical aspects since from the description you provided it sounds like they don't have a woman in any of the technical positions. I work as a programmer however I would never expect a HR Manager or Accounting Manager regardless of gender to have an interest in the programming languages ("equipment") we use or concepts we work on like throughput and latency. If they do have an interest great but it's not their job title.

  53. They most likely aren’t interested in those aspects of the company because they aren’t given the opportunity to transfer into the departments involved. When your role in a business has a dead-end future, it’s understandable to be less than fully invested.

  54. This is a very biased article masked as girls being mysteriously and seriously oppressed in the workplace. Schools and the workplace are too different environments. Schools are very structured environments where boys and girls are given specific lessons to learn, specific projects to work on, and tests that cover specific topics. In the real world, you don't have any hand holding or a structured environment. Nothing happens unless you drive yourself to accomplish things. There is no social infrastructure to hold your hand like in school. Well, they say that girls mature faster than boys so this academic spike in school could be that we are comparing the early maturing of girls vs the delayed maturing of boys. As boys mature, they happen to show that development later in life such as in the "office" that this article is complaining about.

  55. Just so very simple. Boys are told that pubertal changes in their bodies are great, and girls are told they should stop eating so much. Eat less, who cares if you can't concentrate, and feel dizzy? It's more important to be a size 4.

  56. @Mrs H: also....a boy is a success or failure based on his smarts, grades, schoolwork, achievement, sports ability, etc. A girl is judged by her looks. She can be a straight A National Merit Scholar on the Honor Roll every year, and a full ride scholarship to Harvard....but if she is homely and overweight, she will be perceived as a "loser". She will also almost certainly be dateless. The terror that drives girls to perfectionism in school (and it is hardly universal -- I was quite the opposite in school!) ALSO drives them to stuff like extreme dieting, disordered eating (*subclinical eating disorders), bingeing, purging, constant weighing -- and that isn't even getting into the anxieties about having bad skin or hair that won't behave. When that girl is up to 2AM....I doubt it is all homework. A fair amount of time is angsting over looks & popularity, and pushes the homework later & later.

  57. How many male leaders hire their friends and that buddy in school. This may change in another 100 years as the work force becomes filled at all levels. Even so this is true for males who work hard as well but don’t have the networking others have. Our society has become very much who you know at higher levels than what you know. The worker if class are the ones that keep things going and know what’s going on. All of these hard working people that make keep things going are under appreciated and over worked.

  58. @Mathew: the biggest part of why the upper classes yearn so desperately for Ivy League colleges....is not that they are superior educationally. It is that WITHOUT THAT....you never get the "key" to the inside of things. You never room with Malia Obama. You never get asked to the Obama's house in Kalorama for fall break. You never get that Rolodex (yeah, I know it is digital and on a smartphone today) with all the people who are connected, rich and "in the know" who can help you with jobs and resumes and internships and letters of recommendation. That is literally priceless.

  59. It's is instruction, curriculum, formal and informal mentoring, and early access that is the difference in STEM between men and women. Also, most schools have rules and parameters. Women are often rewarded and awarded for playing within those boundaries... "excessive study" read extra-credit, but who sets that bar? But guess what? In the real world there is ambiguity. In this world coloring outside the lines is often rewarded and awarded. In the real world people do not pull out their college transcripts as evidence of achievement. Self-awareness of how the real world works should be important to girls but who clues them in? Better yet when? You would be nervous and anxious with this large piece of the puzzle missing. Mastery of diverse subjects, skills, or sport build confidence. Once you understand this you build confidence. Because gaining mastery involves wins, losses, acceptance, gaining ability or plateauing, and then moving onto the next step(s) or thing. Just as in the real world of work. This is something women are rarely taught an early age. But what does confidence actually look like in women? How is it understood and perceived? This bit of info from the front: scariest thing in the workplace to many... a confident woman.

  60. @marielle No it isin't. The "difference in STEM" is explained by the difference in male and female interests. Men are interested in things; women in people. If you're a people person, STEM ain't for you -- and smart females know it.

  61. @ellen1910 Sorry to clue you in but how can you be interested in something you are rarely exposed to? Many girls like robotics and working on teams = people. Science is about people and when girls/women are involved it will be more so.

  62. The path to success is school is obvious, solid, measurable, and obtainable if you simply meet the metrics laid out for you. The path to success in a career is much less clear. You can do everything right and still not get that job or promotion or raise based on subjective criteria, not the least of which is of course some measure of sexism. I don't think it's that complicated.

  63. @Kate: very early in my career, I had a boss take me aside for my evaluation. He told me "you are the most centered, calm, focused person on the staff....if the building was on fire....you are the one who would be calmly directing people out of the building, never losing your cool or panicking." He added..."and I hate that. I like pretty girls who get all flustered and excited about projects and run around trying desperately to please me, instead of just focusing on the job and getting it done right." Not long after, I was laid off.

  64. I don't mean to be combative, but far more women than men leave the workplace to raise children. Studies show that this is true, whether the woman is a high school graduate or holds a Ph.D. According to a Pew survey most women say they wouldn't have it any other way. Obviously these women measure success in ways that go beyond the workplace. And if you are going to fairly compare the genders, you need to consider their relative success as they measure success themselves.

  65. @michjas It's funny reading this comment after haven't spent the past 30 years in environments that are 95% male. The overwhelming majority of men I've known would cut back on their hours to have more time at home in a NY second. And in the cases where they're given the opportunity, they do. Honestly, in the past 30 years working among thousands of men, I've seen very little indication that there are significant gender differences at all - particularly when you eliminate the structures that cause them. Perhaps at the extremes of behavior there are (and not necessarily for the better), but I've observed far more similarities than I ever have differences. I think that the tendency to assume otherwise is more an indication of confirmation bias than good powers of observation.

  66. @Tracy i think there is some aspect of it that may be hardwired --- but yeah a lot and maybe most of it is cultural. Separate point perhaps but don't forget women play a very big role in guarding and reinforcing the cultural standards that help to perpetuate the slanted outcomes ... and I don't just mean non-career women. Women demonstrate a pretty strong preference for "alpha males" and that in turn translates to huge pressure on men to try to get that status . Sweeping generalization but I think women are not always honest with themselves about the role that their preferences in men play in perpetuating the status quo. That isn't to say the other issues of outright bias by men aren't a factor too .... but let's be clear -- women play a big role that doesn't get much attention from that angle (it seems to me). Not blaming women ..... that is the way things have been and if things are going to change there needs to be more honesty about the factors in play.

  67. I think you are right..but only sort of. Most of the women I know are highly educated but decide to leave work or work part-time because there is no equality at home when it comes to child duties and home management. Even when they gave a “helpful” spouse, they are still burdened with the emotional labor of thinking of and directing everything, including telling the husband what to do, where to be, etc. I believe many of my friends would have stayed on as full-time workers if there was true equality in the home, in not only deed but also in mental energy. Until then, women just give up the professional path out of sheer mental and physical exhaustion.

  68. It feels like there is a missing chapter in this article - where is the starting moment that escalates into academic anxiety? Is it elementary school teachers who show a preference for male students? Parents who may (subconsciously) favor sons over daughters? Or who push their daughters to extremes to compensate? I say this as a former high-achieving student of a competitive NYC private school who never exhibited any of the symptoms outlined here - though I was frequently compared to characters like Hermione Granger (and bullied for it). Something's amiss here: little girls don't just suddenly bloom into frantic balls of anxiety and overcompensation. I know because I, and my classmates, were once those little girls.

  69. @catherine From what I've read, girls lose self-confidence around puberty. Not all girls, of course. But in elementary school, most are as confident as the boys.

  70. @catherine . also parents are more anxious to have girls perform better, work harder, since they want the girls to make it in the safe and survive in the big harsh world. They want them to get decent jobs in good companies, where they will face less harrasment. With lower academic jobs, they will get lower paying jobs, and that means more harrassment. See how they are linked? women already suffer more in lower paying jobs.

  71. @catherine I was speaking to a grandparent friend the other day about her 11 year old granddaughter. She attends an international school, gets excellent grades and is very athletic. During our conversation my friend avowed that her granddaughter had recently wished that she had been born a boy. When asked why, she replied "because things are easier for boys than for girls". I admit I was shocked to hear this in this day and age because I naively thought that we had moved on, at least in the education system. I guess not.

  72. It is more about sexism in the workplace. Men are almost always paid better, otherwise why the gender gap in pay?

  73. The gender pay gap is actually an earnings gap which is in part due to women's own choices in careers and how often they work, but also sexist bias against them in many fields that simply keep women back when they try to excel.

  74. The answer is simple. It is nowhere near a level plsying field. Guys car about dollars, grades not so much. In fact, they need some bad boy behavior to join the boys clubs!

  75. How about attributing male success in the workplace to sexism? How about looking at research that shows men are preferred and valued over women and paid more? How about the research that shows when a scientific paper is labeled as having been authored by John T. McKay, it is rated much higher than the same paper with Joan T. McKay listed as the author? How about women like Rosalind Frank and Candace Pert and Lisa Leitner getting written out of history while men take the credit and the Nobel Prizes for the research???

  76. @Earthling I couldn't agree more. The problem isn't primarily in the schools. It's in the workplace. I work for a company founded by a woman and where the professional staff is largely female. It's like a different (and much, much better) world compared to other workplaces I've experienced in my nearly 40 years of work life. Co-workers don't talk over each other. They respect each other's points of view. Feelings matter. In short, it's simply more human.

  77. @Earthling In many scientific fields (certainly mine) it is customary to use only first and middle initials. Rosalind Franklin (note correct name) died before the prize was awarded. Its rules specify that it cannot be awarded posthumously. I've never heard of the other two names cited.

  78. @Earthling How about, those are all valid points but the article was about gender bias in education, not gender bias in the workplace? I am sure that the author is aware of everything you said and may even agree with what you pointed out but those issues are beyond the scope of this column.

  79. Women lose at the office because they're told they can have it all. No. We cannot. Nor should we try. We cannot be A+ performers as employees, A+ wives, a+ mothers. We get to pick one or two out of three, and that is all there is to it. The American culture is set up so that professional competition is still the stiffest, and if you want a 4.0 GPA at the office, your marriage and/or your kids are going to be sacrificed on some level. Ditto, if you want 1600 on the SATS of homelife, you're not getting CEO.

  80. If "effort = time/conscientiousness", girls put in more effort in school, but men put in more effort at work. Study after study shows both facts. For every study showing girls spending X more hours on homework than boys, you can find another study finding that men spend X more hours a week working than women. It shouldn't really be much surprise that when those things are true, girls get better grades in school but men end up monopolizing the most powerful positions in work organizations. None of that is to say that sexism is irrelevant, old boy networks don't give certain types of men big advantages, etc. All those things are relevant factors. But if you are talking about why men end up overrepresented in the highest echelons of corporate America, you can't ignore the fact that they're much less likely to drop out of the workforce or reduce their hours than women are, or that they're also significantly more likely to be working greater than 40 hour weeks. That is part of the story too, as much as it pains the PC among us to admit it.

  81. @A I'm curious about this dynamic--it flies in the face of what I want to believe, for sure, but also what I've observed in my sector (performing arts), where women show up to give talks with notes and men show up ready to fill the time off the cuff, women come in memorized and men take their time pulling their performances together, women have charts and men have talking points. Can you point to a few of these studies so I can take a look? It seems to me that you're talking about specifically about parents (fathers put in more work hours than mothers), but I'd be very interested to see any studies on childless men vs women in the workplace as well. Consider me ready to learn on this front. And thanks.

  82. @A I understand your point, but that begs the question, why are women more likely to leave the workforce or reduce their hours? For many, this circles back to having to choose a family or a career. The women I know who have scaled back or stopped working have generally done so because of the rising cost of child care and the lack of support for a true work/life balance. This goes back to a societal view of not just the traditional gender roles of men and women (though that surely plays a part), but also to the way we as a country seem to be hyper focused on the value of getting as many working hours as possible. While I acknowledge that sometimes big projects come up that take more time or require those extra hours, I often find that those extra hours become permanent, and often to the detriment of the worker. Even when off the clock, many employees find it hard to completely unplug. The lack of vacation and maternity/paternity benefits this country offers compared to other countries is astounding. And this applies to both men and women. Corporate America too often demands people work themselves into the ground, and then offer so many little or no time to unwind with an actual vacation or truly settle into the new life you have once a child joins your family. Though I feel like I've rambled a bit, in my view it all feels connected. We have unrealistic expectations all around and that seems to feed the inequity with which we all seem to struggle.

  83. @A Yes A, and so many top exec men, who have sacrificed every hour to their companies, look back from their later years and sadly wonder why they’ve foregone their families in order to push their incomes beyond necessity and raise their company’s stock a point or two.

  84. The article errs in assuming that women want to be more like men at work or otherwise. What if they don't?

  85. @Mike Livingston I don't see that anywhere in the article. The author is not suggesting that women want to be more like men, but that a crippling lack of confidence is an unpleasant burden for anyone to carry through life, and it's exceedingly common in girls.

  86. @Mike Livingston Thank you.

  87. Women only entered the workforce in significant numbers in the 1960's. Men have been in the workforce for thousands of years. Women have not had time to develop a thousand years worth of networking tradition. Men learn very early that connections (who you know is more important than what you know) and appearing confident are part of the networking game. On top of that, there is the expectation that a woman will still be a full-time mom and housekeeper in addition to her paying job. Here is a good article on exactly why a lack of long established professional networks and connections is such a huge obstacle for women: https://www.forbes.com/sites/lizelting/2018/07/27/how-to-navigate-a-boys-club-culture/#e5f0be64025c

  88. @Heather This makes no sense. "The workforce," in its current forms, has not existed for a thousand years. The issue isn't that women couldn't quickly figure out how networking works -- it's that they didn't (and don't, even now) have full access to the networks.

  89. @Ale What I mean is that men have been in professions (from general to doctor, judge to merchant/businessperson) for millennia—and because only men were doing these jobs, the professional network rituals and clubs that were created reflected masculine interests. We still have men-only clubs and secret societies as well as masculine rituals like bonding over sports that are part of being connected in the workplace. With time, women will both change the nature of the existing networks and will also create their own. We are still in the ice-breaking stage, so that is one reason (out of many) for the gender gap. I expect that women will change how we work so that men and women both have a better work/life balance.

  90. Nah. I didn't have to work hard in school, was a national merit scholar and went on to medical school. But I was naive and expected a level playing field when I got out into the "real" world. There's where the difference occurred with guys being mentored and as this went on doors closed in my face literally. So women can have a crisis of confidence but to call it truthfully it is a crisis of opportunity.

  91. @Sza-Sza Me too (except for not med school, but phd in male-dominated field). This article propagates the stereotype that women are “hard workers,” a stigma in fields where “genius” is sometimes (undeservedly) elevated. I could slide through school successfully. Real world, I’m not so sure. But now I have the childcare impacts too.

  92. @Sza-Sza: During graduate school, I at first had no complaints about the way my advisor treated me, especially compared to the way other professors treated their women students. I felt fortunate that my advisor didn't sexually harass me or belittle my work. I was his only advisee for a couple of years until a man with the same specialization joined the program and was assigned the same advisor. All of a sudden, this new student received perks that the advisor had never even mentioned to me: having the professor order any book for the library that he wanted, being hired as a research assistant, being assigned to T.A. a class that would give him a distinct advantage in the job market. I had nothing against this student. In fact, I liked him a lot, and he was definitely smart. But the disparity was just too obvious.

  93. @Sza-Sza Sza-Sza, it's both - and they interact.

  94. I think men are more prone to self promotion than women in general. Some men more so than others. I remember a situation in my career that may be illustrative. A male friend and I had comparable performance in almost e very aspect except he was a bit more talented technically than I and we were in a high tech company. When a senior managment position became available he expected the more senior managers to look at his performance metrics, (which were better than mine) and come to him with the promotion. I took a different approach and went to the senior managers and made the case why I should get the promotion. Guess who got it? Me. Not because I was more qualified but because I took the initiative and asked for it. I think this may be why more competent women may not get the positions they deserve; they seem, for whatever reason, less inclined to put themselves forward. I could be wrong but I spent 30 years in that field and saw it multiple times. I'd be interested to hear what other people think about this.

  95. @Tim I think Wood Allen had it right when he stated that 90% of life is just showing up. Fake it till you make it actually has merit. Showing confidence even when you don't feel it inside or don't actually have the skills WORKS. This has been proven in many experiments. If you want success, MAKE it happen. Take responsibility. Be confident. Tell yourself you can do it. If you don't have confidence in yourself, no one else will. This really works - oh, and conquer your fear by ignoring it until one day you notice it has gone. Also very true. We become what we think. Think you can, think you can't - either way, you are right. Or, as Jackie Gleason once put it - If you got it, and you think you got it, you got it. If you don't got it, but you think you got it, you got it. If you got, but you don't think you got it, you don't got it!

  96. @Tim Sorry Tim, no one is going to answer your very astute observation because it does not fit the "women are always the victim and they do not have to take responsibility for their actions or lack thereof."

  97. Systemic forces are great. Many roles are unnecessarily gendered at school, at home and in the workplace. There are biased effects produced by when and how puberty hits but it is the timing that schools enforce that causes these effects to reverberate. Personally I'm for Pre-K thru 26 education programs. When folks are ready to leave school, let them go. Allow the late bloomers (often our entrepreneurs) stay and percolate longer before they make the big move. We make the mistake of thinking everyone arrives at school at relatively the same place. The truth is we arrive from different places. When we fail to meet young people where they are, we get into these discussions that lean too much on gender and wave away the real issues that run deeper. We are too eager to put people into tracks. Let the children bring their gifts and let us take the time to see them.

  98. It's an interesting thesis, and probably applies to lots of girls, but not to mine. My teenaged daughter blows through school. She's at the top of her class, straight As with minimal effort, but she also suffers from that peculiar lack of confidence that seems to plague only women and girls. Over the years I've asked her why she is so insecure about her abilities when every ounce of feedback she's ever gotten should support her feeling very confident in herself. Her answer has been a variation on this: the work I do for school is not ME. I'm solving a math problem, I'm writing about history, I'm doing a project on global warming. When I complete them, I'm not putting MYSELF out there. But when someone asks for my opinion, or for me to write about myself, or for me to share my personal experiences or my ideas, I freeze. The anxiety eats me up. Why? We haven't figured that out yet. But it's definitely something she shares with other girls and my sons can't begin to understand what the heck she's talking about. They're all too eager to share themselves with an audience.

  99. @Cupcake As discussed by many women, confident girls ofttimes become tormented by feelings of inadequacy when they venture into their childbearing years. They are no less competent than men; it’s just natures’ cruel trick to increase births. As Gloria Steinem left her childbearing years she announced her triumph over these subversive feelings. Tell your daughter to recognize the irrational source of her feelings - and laugh at them.

  100. A typical misandrist article. It’s easy - women do better in school because schools are designed to discriminate against boys. It’s amazing how easily when we discuss race, any outcome demonstrating disparate impact is obviously the result of institutional racism; and when females appear to suffer a disparate impact, we assume its the result of gender discrimination. Hypocritically, when males suffer disparate impacts, we forget all about discrimination. I’ve told my sons to “identify” as female is they want to get an even break in todays “anti-male” America.

  101. @James Wilson "it's easy--men do better in the workplace because workplaces are designed to discriminate against women."

  102. Girls do better than boys in school because schools are designed, managed and taught by women to be female friendly and anti-male. Men do better in the workplace because we sacrifice self, family and friends to succeed far more frequently than women. We measure our success by title and wealth and so we pay the price to succeed. Simple.

  103. Amen William. I sacrifice friends and downtime for success. It’s worked out well. As I’ve gotten older my truest friends are all workaholics. We take two vacations a year to let off some steam, then continue the grind when we get back. The question I would pose to anyone looking for workplace success is, what are you willing to sacrifice in order to be successful?

  104. @William how come it's so easy for you to call discrimination against boys because early education is a female-centric place but you refuse to entertain the idea that the same dynamic might play out in reverse in the workplace (aka women don't succeed as much in the work place be cause it is "male friendly" and "anti-female"). just switch the genders around lol.

  105. @William So William, what have you gained that is worth half so much as that which you have lost?

  106. Missing the point entirely. Maybe boys should be schooled differently and have more expected from them. Perhaps our sexist culture is more at fault than the way girls do or don’t perform at school. And who are these girls? Is this true across race, class, and gender identity?

  107. This article is Greek to me. Getting my 12-year-old daughter to crack a book is a daily battle, and I don't know if I've ever met someone better at ferreting out the bare minimum amount required of her. I'd like to see just a shadow of all that anxious studying I just read about.

  108. A question for the author: Are these attitudes and behaviors different for one gender than the other because our society has made it so? Or is there some difference in the way we achieve confidence that is a product of genes. And would she recommend different solutions for the discrepancy if it was once cause or the other?

  109. I have watched this dynamic at work for 25 years in a variety of workplace settings. Large for-profits, non-profit arts organizations, governmental agencies. There is a conscious and/or unconscious bias to ascribe more knowledge and wisdom to men in almost every situation. I can't tell you how many times I've heard a woman say let's do this -- offering a smart, effective solution to a problem -- and be totally ignored. 10 minutes late and guys says it and everyone (men and woman say, great idea!) I could give other examples of women being overlooked. My daughter is 12, doing group projects at school, and she has complained to me that no one (boys and girls) listen when she has an idea until a boy has that idea too. I think it's more workplace culture than lack of female workplace confidence.

  110. @Catherine: This has been my experience as well, and after 25 years, I'm exhausted. I'm tired of having to downplay my skills and accomplishments because a man is threatened all out of proportion. I'm tired of always having to take the softer, more feminine approach and then get punished for not taking a stronger approach, but when I take the stronger approach, I'm deemed not womanly, not feminine. It's rigged, and women can't win as long as society expects them to be meek, obedient, submissive, flattering to men, not as good as men, not as smart or as competent as men. It is 2019, and there are still too many men who are threatened by a smart, competent woman. Telling girls to slack off won't improve or increase their confidence because society hasn't changed. They're picking up on the social cues sent by parents, teachers, friends, family, and society as a whole. It gives them two different messages, and doesn't reward them the same way it rewards boys and men. No wonder they're stressed out. I would like one man to walk a mile in my shoes, to try being female and see how it feels to have your ideas and proposals ignored until a man offers the very same things (then he's congratulated and praised as if he invented the wheel), to have to always temper his tone and words, to never be allowed to be less than perfect or human.

  111. @Catherine, I've seen this happen, but also had this experience personally, and I historically always attributed it to having a soft voice. Even people I knew respected me would just talk over me, when I was in the middle of a sentence. But I've come to realize that they can physiologically hear me; they just can't psychologically hear me. It's as if I'm not speaking. It's very strange.

  112. @Catherine My daughter experienced this phenomenon in high school, most clearly in an advanced physics class. The teacher routinely ‘didn’t hear’ correct answers given by girls, and then heartily praised a boy who offered the same correct answer afterwards. My daughter became fed up, and after one particularly egregious example (three girls gave the correct answer, unheard, when the fourth correct answer, given by a boy, was lauded as a genius response) she stood up and pointed out what was obvious to every girl in the class. The teacher’s response was that he had a hearing deficit in the higher register. The school counselor’s response was that my daughter was the only kid who complained, so it was clearly a problem with her, not the teacher. Lesson learned.

  113. Yeah, somehow I don’t think putting in less effort and fewer hours is going to help women get ahead at work. This article seems oddly focused on the wrong half of the equation. No surprise that those who work harder in school do better. Now, why isn’t that true at work?

  114. @Leah Perhaps because perfectionism is less valuable in the workplace. When there are numerical grades and the subject matter is precisely defined and strictly limited, 100 is better than 98 and much better than 95. But success in business isn't like that; the problems are much fuzzier.

  115. @Leah Aside from bias on the part of supervisors, there is also the social aspect of work. Very often, the most lucrative (and promotion track) specialties, such as sales, require the employee to develop a rapport with clients. That often involves dinners, golf games, or other social situations where women have a distinct disadvantage in dealing with male clients. The culture of some businesses (especially finance) is also sterotypically male, hyper competititve and aggressive. Women are at a large social disadvantage in business because we've been trained not to be too aggressive, to brag, to demand. Males who are good at those things can get ahead.

  116. @Leah, because work is about politics and personalities.

  117. I’m very concerned by the author’s comment that it is a positive thing for kids to have an easy time in high school, and learn that they can cruise by on their natural smarts alone. The kids who are used to cruising in high school, and who never learn to study, are in for a rude awakening once they get to college. I have seen this exact scenario end in suicide. Please, let’s teach all the kids how to work hard and be gritty. I am fine with teaching those of both genders not to be such obsessive perfectionists, and those who lack self-confidence to develop some. But it almost sounds as if the author is praising the underprepared slobs who lean in despite their lack of readiness. Let’s instead teach managers to recognize true ability and effort, regardless of whether it is in a man or a woman.

  118. @Courtney N I don't think that is what she is saying at all. I am 22 years old (graduated high school in 2015). There has been a new trend within the past decade i guess which sees US high schoolers driving themselves to madness because of the pressures of high school and the great beyond. depression is up, suicide rates are up, etc. She is by no means saying we need to cruise, rather, things need to be toned down. The attitude towards overworking NEEDS to change. It's not right. There aren't two extremes (slobs and perfectionists) i think thats a very dangerous way to think.

  119. @Courtney N I hate that term - grit. Along with other nonsense like "lean in." Let kids enjoy being kids is a far better strategy for having well-adjusted adults who have discovered BY THEMSELVES what they like and don't like and what their strengths and weaknesses are. Our education system is anything but and dulls the creativity children naturally contain. By the time most kids reach high school they hate institutionalized learning. Learning how to learn and think critically is far more important than doing mind-numbing and useless busywork in school.

  120. @Brian Bailey "Grit " is not nonsense. Grit is a stable personality trait , not a strategy. Try researching "grit". You will discover that it is not "nonsense."

  121. But does any of the strategies you tell your patients or your daughter work? Talk is cheap. I have 1 son and 2 daughters and my wife and I didn't teach them anything. They each are what they are. Treat your kids with kindness and they will grow up to be great people.

  122. Here in Quebec it took a quiet revolution to make females 70% of our new doctors and make females the majority of new lawyers, engineers and accountants. Our Canadian cabinet is 50/50 and proven that females are also our peers and our betters in understanding consequence. We have left driving trucks the job in which males dominate even though even in truck driving females seem to perform better.

  123. @Montreal Moe - in Australian deep open cut mines women are the preferred drivers of the very expensive huge ore trucks as they are found to be smoother drivers resulting in less wear and tear and less downtime from accidents. So better value !

  124. Maybe what we need to get rid of is grades. Grades distort the notion of what is enough and what is not enough. Maybe if a student doesn't demonstrate the appropriate level of competence, the work should be returned to be redone. What both males and female students need is to develop internal criteria.

  125. Actually, in my experience, confidence in oneself generally inspires confidence in others - even if both are wildly misplaced. One need look no further for a glaring example than Donald Trump: breathtaking self-confidence with no discernible basis in fact!

  126. @G. Geoffrey Lutz: I have found that confidence and over confidence (your example of DJT is apt) isn't penalized in men but women who express too much confidence get slapped down so hard to ensure that we don't get up again. Culturally, we're educated by parents and society not to be too confident as girls and women. Some confidence is good, but we're not allowed to be as confident as men. We get labelled "unlikeable", "pushy", "bossy", "b!tchy", and more. We lose plum assignments. We don't get considered for promotions. We get called "arrogant" and worse. We always have to downplay our accomplishments lest we offend the men in charge. And sometimes women are just as critical of other women, instead of supporting and helping eachother up the ladder, they cut off other women, seeing that there is only room for one token female at the table.

  127. Yet a larger percentage of women high school graduates go onto college than men do. Maybe working hard in high school pays off.

  128. @rhoda miller it pays off to get into college and get through college, but it fails to make a difference once women get into the workforce.

  129. It's not grades that are pushing more women into higher education, there are plenty of men who don't seek higher education or even drop out who had good grades, but other factors are keeping men back from that. The part of the article talking about men having the majority of management and above positions are made up mostly of those who got a higher education.

  130. I only hope that whatever methods are tried they aren't based on the common sense of professionals- this is the road to failure. Let the effort to help girls reach their full potential be research and science based. Also based on what seems to work in other countries- so many modern countries have more successful education systems than the good old USA at this point. Even though American men may do better out of school than women, they are doing poorly, as a whole, compared to graduates of other nation's school systems. American companies can't find enough qualified applicants for high skill work. At the beginning of this century, concerns about plummeting math and science skills led to reform movements in Germany and the U.S. at about the same time. Now about 15 years later the German reform has been fairly successful while the American one was has been an abysmal failure based on test scores in these subjects. As far as the difference in performance between boys and girls, I find it interesting that no mention is made in this article about the reason for the difference in the way boys and girls perform in school. Cultural or hormonal? Be nice to sort this out before we strive to correct the problem.

  131. To answer the question: Is school the problem? I would have to say, no, it's not the problem. It's a symptom of the problem. Gender biases are ingrained in our society, not created by schools. Asking teachers to teach against gender biases is a laudable goal and an interesting idea. I can't help but wonder, though: do was ask too much of our teachers and schools, asking them to solve so many of our social ills that we are unwilling or unable to address elsewhere? I would be interested to hear the views of some teachers out there.

  132. I think the confidence conclusion misses the boat. Boys win at work because work is controlled by a long line of other boys (men). They tolerate the “just enough “ performance of men in the workplace, while women are not given credit for anything beyond competence. It used to be said that a woman has to work twice as hard to be considered half as good. Is that still true? I look around me and see that things might have improved somewhat, but not nearly enough. The result is that girls’ (and women’s) anxiety about having to be perfect and always being beyond reproach comes from the reality of their experience. They just aren’t cut the same slack as men.

  133. @Kay: Very true. It isn't because women don't "lean in", that we don't work hard or smart. I think gender biases are so ingrained, so much a part of our culture, including our workplaces, that we don't even think about them. Even this article blames girls for not slacking off like their brothers. The author doesn't seem to consider that perhaps girls are more stressed because we are held to impossibly high standards (nothing short of perfection is ever good enough) and boys are allowed to be human. I still think of how we view the same behaviors and characteristics in men and women differently. A man who is a go-getter or who speaks his mind (even when he doesn't know what he's talking about) is considered assertive (a positive thing, to be admired). A woman who is a go-getter or who speaks her mind is considered aggressive (good in men, bad in women) and "pushy" (a negative thing). Men are viewed as competent no matter what; the burden is on us to prove incompetence; with women it is the opposite, we have to constantly prove ourselves over and over again, and if we make a mistake, it is never forgiven, let alone forgotten. Male mistakes are no big deal, never a job or career ender. And then we wonder why women and girls aren't progressing in the workplace? It's rigged in favor of men, and women can't win. https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2017/01/women-negotiating/512174/. There are other articles and studies about this and other work issues.

  134. 100% agree. I face both implicit (my male colleagues are listened to in ways I’m not) and explicit (I’m told that women should not enter my field, which is historically made up primarily of men) regularly. I recently sought a promotion through a formal process and was asked essentially to do triple work to put my package together. Many of the men I work with look at me and cannot see an equal, no matter what I do. Perhaps the media images of adult women as objects, inferiors, dependents, victims, fools, etc are too pervasive and powerful; images of men as owners, victors, conqerors

  135. @Kay, exactly. The same goes double for non-white workers. You're never good enough, no matter how hard you work.

  136. I never lacked skill or confidence in the workplace yet I had a colleague who was promoted over me much to the suprise of my other colleagues and myself. Needless to say it was a man who had neither the knowledge or work ethic to do the job. I ended up doing both jobs because no one wanted his advise or input. It was a greater burden on me with no change in pay. I eventually left taking a promotion at another company. At my exit interview the administration seemed surprised to learn that a primary reason for my leaving was due to a lack of respect from administration. I never had trouble being boldly honest so I gave them the feedback I thought they needed to hear. The year I left they lost 10 women in junior positions who weren’t going to get promotions they deserved. We all easily got more senior positions elsewhere. Maybe women expect to be promoted within a company more often and are less likely to move due to family ties but if they truly want to move up to leadership positions then the answer may lie in that direction.

  137. Boys and girls are different. Not news. Strengths (proper level of confidence) and weaknesses (over- or under-confidence) are found in both sexes, but (according to this article) not with the same frequencies. Success in business requires aptitudes and skills that are not taught in school: synthesis of broad classes of information, people skills, decision-making skills. These may be unequally distributed between the sexes; we don't really know because they are hard to measure.

  138. I call it "Strategic Laziness", and I always advocated that strategy for my kids. You can't spend full effort on every assignment no matter the relative importance or lack of importance. Make the effort when it counts, slack off when you can.

  139. @texas mom: That was my philosophy of life. I was always graded as "could do better" except in science, something that I really liked. When I graduated from college after several years of having fun, I chose the job that offered me the most time off. I put in as little effort as possible but was praised by my supervisors for my superior performance as I had learned that being efficient made my life easier. Although I never earned much money by working, I was a passive investor and ended up a single-digit millionaire. The race isn't always to the swift. Having a 150+ IQ may have helped.

  140. The skill I learned in school, both high scool and college that has helped my professional career the most is how to minimize the amount of time that a project takes. you figure out what the minimum amount of time need to do a project is, add 15 minutes to that and start the project that amount of time before the deadline, I called it the desparation inspires insparation theory. My supervisors have found that they can always rely on me for the last minute assignments. Too many people expand the project to fill the available time, leaving them not good choices for the crunch work. Too many people make perfection the enemy of the good. Maybe perfection is a good objective in art or music, but for most businesses it ain't so. For most bosses given the choice between two people who's skill level is the same the winner is the one you can count on to get the job done when there isn't enough time to do it perfectly, which is most of the time.

  141. @JJ I hope most workers do not take your advice. Just about anybody can crank out a mediocre product on short notice. You believe you have established a reputation for doing this. Um, you want praise for this approach?

  142. When I was in school I did the work necessary to get around a high B average in all my subjects. In reality, I got A's in the subjects I liked and C's and B's in the subjects I didn't like and therefore put less effort into. I knew where my strengths and interests lay and knowing that I could get an A+ if I wanted to meant that I didn't care so much if I got a B in a subject I couldn't care less about. To me it was about working smart and having a balanced (for a teenager) life. If it took 50 units of work (an imaginary unit) to get a B+ (good enough) why would I want to work 100 units to get an A or A+?! I mean, I could do it but it would mean giving up spending time with my friends, giving up play time and other things I enjoyed. This attitude has served me well in life and the author is definately on to something here. My father, who was a Professor of Education, once told me that teachers who got the highest marks when they were students, were almost always NOT the best teachers. Having lots of life experience is far more valuable than getting an A+. Getting a bunch of A's usually means you are good at giving others what they ask for and can do the work required - it often means you are good at drawing straight lines - but will never be a Picasso because you aren't creative or willing to challenge orthodoxy or hierarchies. School is both to a great extent. As Mark Twain said, I have never let my schooling get in the way of my education.

  143. Interesting article. I grew up with 3 brothers who would all fake it until they made it. I learned not to be intimidated or question my intelligence by watching them fake it. Why else would All-Star Wrestling be a thing!

  144. It isn't just girls. I'm 61 and I still do this. I work in a heavily millennial company and feel as if I have to prove myself every single minute by working twice as hard as anyone. They'll never think my ideas are worthwhile, because they're just an old person's ideas — but they know I work harder than anyone. In four years I've not had two continuous weeks of vacation. I'm exhausted.

  145. Hang in there Elaine. I manage half a dozen people your age. We all have something to bring to the table. My power as a manager comes from people your age, more than from people my age. If you feel spent, tell them, ask for some time off. There’s a good chance if you work you’re tail off, theyll recognize that.

  146. That’s not the issue.

  147. South Carolina, where I live, has very high tuition costs for its public colleges and universities. To offset the cost, the state offers scholarships generated by lottery money. In order to get the scholarships, students must clear several hurdles, including being in the top percentage of one's class. So, unfortunately, the difference between a 91 and a 99 is affordable college for most of us.

  148. I'd love to see an article in the times that analyzed why boys aren't doing as well as girls in school. This article makes it sound like the more disciplined and hard working girls is just the way it is, end of story.

  149. While I understand the essence of your thesis, and your caveat in your final paragraph...That caveat is where it falls apart for me. As a black woman, a “double check”, as articulated by my grandfather, I’ve always been told I have to work twice as as hard to get ahead, to get the attention and credit I deserve. We’re constantly having to justify that we belong at the table and aren’t subject to the same lax luxuries as our fairer-hued counterparts. Read Becoming- though we’re not all subject to the same level of scrutiny as the first black first couple in US history, the level of perfection the Obamas demanded of themselves is probably why they were so broadly respected. Imagine if they had carried themselves with the same lax, careless behavior of their successors? Ha! Anyways, I would love for my children to have the privilege of mediocrity. But frankly, if I do want them to be leaders and fulfill their potential, it’s something that I still don’t believe society will allow.

  150. Good article. Through college and working full time, I learned to prioritize. Much like the author says if I was slipping in one course I would take it up a notch. On a final I would wing it if I had a good grade already and focus on the classes I had a b- or lower. No need to study ten hours for a final if you have a relative grasp of the material. I’m a manager at the same place I worked in college now. The biggest hurdle as a salaried manager is time management. I know I can’t cover 100% of the things, all the time. But I can keep everything around the 80-90% range by doing the things that are slipping to push them up to a 100, then subsequently run them down. The biggest advice I would give to someone is think about tomorrow as today is winding down. What are you going to accomplish? What is your schedule? Imagine it unfolding in your mind. Prioritize it. Actualize it. Rinse. Repeat.

  151. I had a young employee once -- bright, dedicated, good with clients -- who didn't know when to stop. If asked to research a topic, she would deliver so much that it was not possible to grasp it. I used to urge her to "go home already," but she still came in early and stayed late. She burned out. Such a sad waste. As I recall, she had stellar grades at a very competitive college.

  152. @Seabiscute So she was bright, dedicated, and good with clients. But she was so smart that you couldn't grasp the extent of the analysis that she presented, and therefore you didn't reward her for being excellent. Such a sad waste of an excellent person. I can tell that you regret it.

  153. Some of this may be true, but my experience has been that women have learnt that they have to be better than men to be considered for the job. A man looks the part (6 feet tall, broad shouldered), with some qualifications and is confident. The woman is 5'3", petite build, with all the qualifications -- and she thinks she is confident. Guess who gets the job? In my experience, it depends who the selectors are. Middle aged female selectors look at the qualifications and experience. 40 year old men who are 6'2" will pick the man. Maybe they are just picking people like themselves (which is what most research shows).

  154. @Gloria Anchio Don't kid yourself. Women pick people like themselves too. I've seen too many cases where a flashy young woman is hired and the female managers go ga-ga over her and promote her beyond her abilities (and over more experienced women) because "She reminds me of myself at that age!" Everyone has biases. Women are far from immune.

  155. As a girl, my mother told me that I wasn't special, that a lot of people would always be prettier, smarter, better than me, and that I'd have to work very hard to be anything. My brother was told that he was special, that he was better than others, that he could be anything he wanted. I studied hard in school and college, and God forbid if I brought home a B in anything. I was punished for getting a B. My brother brought home Cs and was praised to the high heavens if he eked out a B in anything. Guess who was more stressed, who felt the need to be completely perfect at all times? Guess who was allowed to skate by and who got passes and who didn't stress out, and was allowed to be human? Yet my mother will tell anyone who asks that she treated us exactly the same, and that she had the same expectations for us. As an adult, when I asked why she was so hard on me, she told me that she was hard on me because the world would be much harder for me than it ever would be for my brother, and she wanted to make sure that I learned that lesson before I finished high school. I think men get a pass all the time, and things that get women fired or not hired in the first place are not a big deal for men. It isn't school, it is our culture, our society. We value men and what they do far above women and what we do. I also remember a male colleague telling me that when he went Yale, he was glad it was all male; his female classmates outperformed him in high school. Same w/work

  156. Girls do better in school because they only depend on the teacher to get a good grade. Hard work is rewarded in school. Out in the big nasty work world women face many obstacles, not least of which I'd an entrenched culture where men dominate and rule. Nothing will change until more women reach the higher corporate ranks.

  157. “Women also face gender bias, sexual harassment and powerful structural barriers in the workplace.” There’s your answer. And please don’t tell women to be less competent and/or more confident.. The problem as others have noted is structural. I have seen many many cases of men raising to senior levels who frankly got there because they look the part and with much less qualifications. Women are confident, women are competent and women are leaning in. What needs to change is the workplace.

  158. "Many professional men brim with confidence because they have spent years getting to know their abilities." More likely, many professional men brim with confidence because they have never really had to rely on or test their abilities. After all, it's not as if we actually live in a meritocracy. We live in a society where constant talk of the meritocracy masks how people, usually men but women too, commonly get ahead -- by latching on like barnacles to influential mentors, engaging in mutual back scratching, and following all the other time-honored techniques of the most successful careerists. The incompetent in every field brim with confidence.

  159. @csp123 For instance, the Russian agent/asset in the Oval Office. He confidently destroys the US, builds a wall for Putin on the southern border to replace the one Putin lost in Berlin. He shut down the government, costly billions of dollars and lives lost in places like national parks where rangers were off duty and could not come to aid those who had had accidents, who later died. Trumpler's incompetence is legendary, and yet, he brims with confidence. His administration is an aberration in American presidential history. This article, encourages, the overconfidence of the incompetent, and says those who strive for perfection are the ones committing the error. I don't think so.

  160. I'm an extremely confident woman in a respected, high-status, traditionally male position. Confidence can be learned, but even very capable young women for some reason fail to learn it at the same rate as men. Does this mean we should encourage them to study less? Don't be daft. All else being equal, I'd rather hire the kid who got a 99 in her number theory class over the kid who got a 91. Something is wrong here, but this is not the solution. Men at my level (and just below - those who advise me) often "live by the sword and die by the sword." They take a strong position on a question, know some facts to justify it, and argue it well. Many successful women do this too. But others wilt, and this is a problem. It may be a problem for how these women are perceived in the workplace; more importantly, it is a problem for how the workplace itself runs. I don't need you to give me eight different ideas about how the energy markets will develop in the next year, no matter how much info you have to support each of those ideas. Sift through that data, pick the best one, and present it to me. I will hear from three or four of you, weigh your arguments, and choose the direction of this firm. Confident, adversarial discussion pushes us forward. Individuals offering the best defense for their ideas makes us a stronger agency. Women without confidence don't play this game well. The answer is *to train women to make choices, own them, and to argue cogently.* All of this can be taught.

  161. Dear @Sally, I appreciate your extensive comment sharing your perspective as a woman who learned to succeed in confident, adversarial discussions. I would argue someone's confidence level is not a good indication of the quality of their perspective. Confidence is fostered by power and we know that power is inappropriately given based on race, gender, and other attributes. Big tech's fascination with the benefits of failure suggest that no-one is dying by the sword for their bad ideas after all, but they just continue on with their entitled approach to life.

  162. Another theory: At least up until the level of college, most teachers are women. Could it possibly be that schools are structured to make girls more successful than boys? And that boys would be more likely to be disciplined than girls? A different theory: The school environment doesn't reward risk taking while the business world does.

  163. I'll bet if you could make a big salary getting good grades in high school and college, boys would be much more competitive. They're not going to work in school if there's nothing in it for them, and are more likely to be self-directed than other-directed.

  164. I've heard this numerous times from women, including my hyper-competent businesswoman sister. She said that when a woman reads an ad for a job, if she doesn't fit every last qualification she won't apply for it. Men feel like they can do the job even if they are not perfectly qualified, and so apply get hired, and (hopefully) "grown into the job." Girls and Women: men are really not interested in standing in your way. The doors are open much wider than today's rhetoric may lead you to believe. It's up to you to charge through.

  165. @Livonian but the thing is, the women learned that they need not apply if they don’t meet every single qualification of a posting perfectly. And to add to it, even if they ARE perfectly qualified in every way, they are less likely to get an interview much less the job.

  166. @Gusting 47% of all US workers are female, so somebody is hiring them. My point is that the "system" really isn't that rigged against women. The self doubts and fears are what women need to overcome more than patriarchy, and we're all rooting for them. Men really do want to see women succeed. It's not always 1902.

  167. Obviously very very few people reach the top levels of business, or any profession for that matter. In contrast, for the entire population fewer boys graduate high school than do girls, far more girls attend college, and a significant majority of college graduates are women. Where is the attention being paid to these great disparities?

  168. Lets be real: the advantage goes to women here - and even fresh into the workplace where young unmarried women out earn men at a 1.1 : 1 clip. But these advantages challenge the "Male privilege" theory and are thus quickly hushed

  169. @neal They are also more likely to be hired over an equally qualified or more qualified man wherever they can slap the "underrepresented" label on a workforce. Women like to ignore what a huge advantage that can be for them, depending on what they studied in college.

  170. In the classroom, the scoring is relatively objective. There is a right answer and a wrong answer, or there is an evaluation system that specifies what items must be included and how many points are earned for each required item. The students often compare scores, so any marked deviation from equal treatment under the publicly known rules will be noticed and challenged. At work, the "scoring" is subjective. Those in charge -- usually men -- maintain the male-heavy proportions in supervisory positions by simply selecting men to hire and promote. The rules are not made public, which gives the bosses room to justify their choices according to any system that makes the male candidate appear to be the better choice. If the man brings in more money in sales, that's the criterion used. If the man doesn't bring in more money but does get along better with co-workers, that's the criterion used as justification. When the rules are secret and can change from year to year to suit whatever the boss wants to do, there is no way to advance on merit. As women have learned, they have to be obviously the best candidate in all possible skills in order to be chosen over men. And if a woman is too good at mimicking the personality traits that are praised in men, she gets criticized for being "too aggressive" or some such negative wording describing a trait that is viewed positively (self-confident, dedicated, determined, motivated, persistent) when a man exhibits it. The game is rigged.

  171. @Judy Blue I would recommend your post a 100 times if I could. Yes the goal posts keep moving for women. That's the real problem, not young girls attitudes toward their homework.

  172. @Judy Blue Agreed - the workplace game sure is rigged! I am a highly competent and highly confident woman. Every single time I've "leaned in" at work I've been slapped right back down, by male bosses, who say I'm "too pushy" or "not ready" or - my favorite - "ambitious". Meanwhile, my male counterpart - same title as mine, basically retired in-place, and demonstrably less qualified and experienced than I am - was just given a 20% raise so that his salary would be above mine. By our male boss. Who said that "as a manager, you (I) should understand." Huh?

  173. The reason the outcome shifts is also because schools foster an environment of some degree of fairness. But in the real world, fairness often goes begging. We don't at all prepare girls (or boys) to navigate this. But somehow, on average, the boys adapt more easily and just roll with the punches.

  174. There is clearly truth to some of these conclusions since progress for women in the workplace continues to lag as measured by income and advancement toward the C-suite. Of course, if you measure society in such corporate terms, you're missing the point to begin with. A greater problem to me is the lack of practical, financial and entrepreneurial skills that all of our children emerge from academia with. Boys and girls who become the heads of families all find themselves in conversations about mortgages, insurance and other staples of life with almost no context about these decisions despite $100K and more spent on bloviating professors. Our educational system may or may not undermine the confidence of women. But it certainly hobbles all of our kids by failing to prepare them for the actual ecosystem they'll graduate into.

  175. When boys do better than girls at something (math or science for example) we are told its because boys are smarter than girls and genetically superior. But when girls do better than boys in school, no one says girls must be smarter than boys and its genetic. Instead they say girls succeed by work harder and being disciplined. It is never attributed to intellectual superiority. If boys fail its the fault of the system. If girls fail its because they are inferior. The reason girls work so hard to be perfect is to overcome the prejudice that boys are really the smart ones. Even when girls do better than boys they are not considered Brilliant - merely hard working grinders and goody goodies. This article is a reflection of the very prejudice that women face from the time they are babies. And yes - all that extra hard work just to be equal is exhausting.

  176. @Nancy Amen. This sexist article was really disappointing to read.

  177. I taught a whole lot of undergrauates over a forty year period and generally found that women were more curious than men, in addition to being more receptive to critical thinking and more tolerant of ambiguity. How do these perceptions fit in with the conclusions of the writer of this piece? In case it is relevant, I am a male.

  178. @arp Very interesting. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  179. I remember girls in 1st & 2nd grade being able to patiently sit & do their work while I & my friends were bouncing off of the walls or at the very least couldn't sit still. I marveled at that. I believed then that they were sucking in way more information/learning/education than I was & that as a consequence, I would be working for them in my adult life. That didn't bother me too much because my first best friend in life had been a girl who lived down the block and as a result I have an innate trust for conveying thoughts and ideas to females that perhaps many of my fellow males don't. I think the world would be a much better place if every boy has a girl friend between the ages of 4 & 8 whom they just enjoy being with/talking to: but friendships have to be an organic natural occurrence. I cherish the fact that I got to have that experience. I have an understanding of how boys & probably men are idiots especially as to nuance, compared to women. I don't think an answer to this is going to be easy. Men even when they like each other metaphorically punch each other. I've never been good at office politics. In my experience you have to decide whether or not you want to "go there" with it (play rough/Machiavellian/ruthless/banal etc to get ahead). My experience is women are much more aware of the costs (morally/emotionally/intellectually/etc) to "going there." Some decide to still. Those that do male or female might win in a narrow sense, but losing in a larger sense.

  180. Unfortunately the stakes are higher for women—and girls know it—because women have to out-perform men in order to get comparable results. My mother-in-law in her 90s, and no feminist, said she preferred female doctors because she knew that they had to be better than male doctors to get where they were.

  181. This author gets it exactly backwards. Girls and women work hard because they are NOT confident. Telling them to work less hard and get lower grades will not more them more confident. Working hard and high grades are a way to increase esteem and self worth through outside sources. What girls and women need is inner confidence not based on seeking outward validation. Many families and our society itself don't support this. A woman with "too much" confidence is not considered "nice" and will often be isolated or called names. This essay, with its overly pat solutions, depresses me.

  182. You missed the bus Damour! No question, girls work harder are more focused in grade school, high school and probably college. But there is a huge un-acknowledged factor here and it is testosterone. The male hormone that promotes risk taking as well as aggressiveness and innovative competition. Do women have this, without a doubt, but at the level men have, not even a contest. Without a doubt, men are more innovative, more willing to move the marker beyond safe bounds and last but not least, men are much more aggressive. Women on the other hand are nest builders, more conservative and take more time on personal development. and it goes without saying, having children is much more difficult in developing careers. God knows we need them, without their securing the home fires, men could not venture out in the unknown and make it happen. Do we need women in the work place, in management positions, without a doubt. We need their very different impute, we need their humanization of our commercialized economy.

  183. It's because the AVERAGE female is better than the AVERAGE male. However, the very best males are still outperforming their female counterparts.

  184. How offensive. This is a rationalization based on nothing but what you would prefer the facts to be so that you don't have to feel bad about or address what's actually going on. There are lots of studies (based on transgender people who take hormones and men with disorders that halt their production of it) that show that testosterone actually produces confidence, whether it's justified or not. What if men become CEOs not because they're any more qualified or capable, but merely because they're hormonally tilted to believe in themselves? I don't believe the solution is to throw up our hands and abandon the unmined competence of women, but rather to educate people and to teach women to find that confidence that doesn't come so automatically to them.

  185. @DHL What is your evidence for this assertion?

  186. That zero major companies were founded by women. Why?

  187. Let’s be specific. Women get pregnant and have babies. Society expects women, but not men, to prioritize child care over career advancement. Men benefit hugely since they can become a parent and not miss a beat at work. From a career standpoint, women lose hugely. Why don’t women insist that their male partners parent and do housework equally? Now that’s mystery.

  188. While society expect women to be the homemakers and care for children, it also expects men to earn the money to pay for that home and afford things to care for that child. Women are not expected to be the breadwinner, men are, which is another factor into why men work more dangerous jobs and take more overtime than women.

  189. @Tamsin Why don't women insist that their male partners......do house work equally? Because it takes less time to empty the dishwasher yourself than to lead him by the hand and show him how to do it and where things go. Again and again.

  190. My present role in an environment that is almost 100% middle-aged men has really been eye opening. Notably, the people in this environment appear to be prone to behaviours such as loudness, rashness, unwarranted confidence and conflict. Much more so than other overwhelmingly male environments that I've worked in. The difference is remarkable, but not surprising considering that the organization is very hierarchical, and "dominance" is an indication of success. Unfortunately they almost unanimously engage in these behaviors to the detriment of successful results. Now that I have responsibility for leading a team, my main recommendation isn't to tell anyone - women or otherwise - to be less hardworking, thorough or diligent. It's to stop giving out gold stars for mediocrity, and to encourage and mentor the people who are intelligent and competant enough to discern the difference.

  191. @Tracy Exactly. This kind of "male" behavior (which is likely as much learned as innate) also explains why female investment portfolio managers do statistically better than males. C.f. Dunning-Kruger effect, something some of the male commentors here also appear to suffer from.

  192. Maybe it’s not the workplace that is failing girls, but schools that are failing boys. Since we’re in the business of making broad pronouncements about the genders,boys like to learn by doing. They like to work with hands, put things together, figure out why things work, be physically active, and compete in tests of strength, speed and agility. There are few opportunities for this in today’s schools. Instead it’s about coloring in the lines and whoever sits quietly and follows all the rules.

  193. This is an interesting article that points out glaring differences between girls and boys, but never tries to explain why these differences exist. The author advocates treating the symptoms, but what about the causes?

  194. Lack of confidence? Really? I believe it is time to talk about the elephant in the room. Women are not striving for top positions because they are choosing to leave the workforce or take lower paying jobs in order to raise families. You want to see women rise in the corporate world, tell them to marry men who are willing to stay home and take care of the children. Better yet, let's start valuing women for their vocational achievements, not just their parenting ones.

  195. Back in the 80s, in a growing software company with young college graduates, excellent female software engineers were known to outperform their male counterparts. Once people got married, the men looked after each other. A man with a family "needs" the money and promotion more. Yes, many women had children and left, but others did not. Engineering studies show women leave the field not only to have children, but because at some point they no longer fit in with male shenanigans, favoritism, and politics. Women do not stick up for each other in this way, and certainly the men will not look after them, either.

  196. @Just Live Well Point me in the direction of a workplace, including those run by women, that isn't suffused with shenanigans, favoritism, and politics. I'd love to work there.

  197. The day that a hard-studying girl eases off, and doesn't get into a first-rate college, is the day she and her well-intentioned parents will, rightly or wrongly, forever regret taking this advice.

  198. @arrow Terrible advice. A first rate college (or grade school, preschool, or delivery ward) means little. A brain surgeon educated in Mississippi has a higher education than a college graduate from Brown or Princeton.

  199. The article misses a major point. Women’s role as mothers affects their work life but not their school life. Beginning with the womb, women normally have a greater role in raising children than men. The next generation would suffer without this maternal attention. Divided responsibility means that fewer women will rise to the highest ranks of the workforce. specialization and exchange in this case is good for both sexes in the long run.

  200. @Peter Parker Huh? I'm a woman but not a mother. My role in life has been to support myself through use of my intelligence, not my fertility, thus my "role as a mother" did not start when I was in my mother's uterus. I suggest you leave your rigidly gendered notions about what other people should do with their lives out of discussions about the futures of all children. If your POV works for you, fine, but it would not have for me, and thank goodness I had a choice you don't seem to want today's girls to have. Scary!

  201. @Peter Parker How nice to see that someone can time-travel from circa 1800 ... or earlier, to share these enlightened views on women's proper roles in society.

  202. I was not a conscientious student and put in the minimum amount of effort to achieve strong results. I went to a women's college. My friends and classmates studied a lot more than I did and got exemplary grades. Same thing happened in law school. My approach of doing just enough has served me well. I enjoy my career. My friends who focused on perfection and super high achievement have not had the same kind of career satisfaction. Many have started careers and abandoned them when they didn't immediately achieve the highest level of success. The middle path seems to be the best. I hope more girls and young women will keep that in mind.

  203. How about instead of telling females how they should change, we tell the males to up their game to match the performance we see in females. Unfortunately, too often in the workplace men get away with sup-par work and poor performance. Even the article states that that under qualified men get positions because of their confidence. Maybe the problem is picking people based on their confidence level instead of their competence. Perhaps workplaces should place more emphasis on competence than confidence. Symphony auditions where the applicant is not seen but only heard show that more women are picked when you only hear their musical abilities / competence. Why can't we do this in the workplace too? Let's not lower the standards of females but instead raise the standards of males.

  204. @Anji And, pray tell, what would those "standards" be? The unspoken assumption here is that getting A's is a reflection of intelligence and competence. That getting C's is a reflection of the lack thereof. I like to have A students in class of all four genders, but I always like to have a core group of C students too. Diversity is good for both groups. Ms P**mier gave me a big fat D in "Accelerated Junior English" ... no way I was going Prestige U,she did me in proper on that for sure, so I went to Noaccount U. And, yet, I spent a career teaching English in a major University ...proving the author's point? No. When I escaped the mind numbing high school experience I was overjoyed to learn that learning and education was something quite likeable, and profound, and I never left.

  205. @Anji Men don't need to "up their game" if they are already successful, and I think that is the point the author is trying to make. Remember, girls and women are trying to succeed in often high-paced and competitive environments that depend on improvisation and guts over exactitude and diligence. There is a reason men do better in these contexts: they are evolutionarily designed for hunting and fighting. These are contexts in which a quick, loose plan executed with complete confidence will out-perform the most meticulously made plan executed trepidatiously. That will never change. So if women want to excel in the traditionally male sphere, they better man up.

  206. @Anji I think the author very clearly made the point that the girls she used as examples were trying far too hard in school. I don't think trying to make boys adopt similarly unhealthy and excessive behaviors is a step in the right direction. Let's instead help the girls find a way to achieve a healthy balance in their lives. In the workplace, adopting a more meritocratic approach makes sense, especially since studies have shown that attractive people are more successful than unattractive people. While you might say that we should raise the standards of good looking people, I would instead suggest that we should just find a way to measure and value the results of people's work. That way it wouldn't matter what someone looks like at all (including their gender), and those who do the best work could be recognized for it.

  207. I'm losing faith in humanity. Good looks and controlled aggression are the keys to success. Men fear that women with laugh at them, women fear that men will kill them. Unfortunately I believe all this to be true.

  208. "shortage of competence is less likely to be an obstacle than a shortage of confidence"? Its for sure not a shortage of competence. Its not a shortage of confidence either. Not the overwhelming factors, in any case. Did this author miss the #metoo movement? What about the statistics on discrimination based on gender at the work place? Especially when it comes to women having children. This is such a damaging view to young girls and women: "its not the constant sexual harassment, not the discrimination that youre facing or going to face that makes you not succeed in the office, its just that youre not exhibiting a typically male charecteristic of confidence. Just swallow your trauma and the unfair treatment and learn to be more confident." And its a toxic message to men too: its not you or your other colleagues discriminating against women, its the womens fault." This coming from a medical professional whos supposed to help people. What a shame. I can understand this line of thinking: it's appealing to envision yourself in control of your life. But accepting reality of widespread sexism helps much more to be a more effective driver of your life than leaning into, frankly, old tropes about why women have it tough in the workforce.

  209. You seem to be blaming the victim. You said everything but: It was the clothes she wore, that was the reason she was raped. We seem to be dealing with institutional sexism in the workplace. Blaming girls for being perfectionists in school doesn't fix that.

  210. Well, for one thing, School is not like Work. School is all about following the rules, doing your assignments, filling requirements, and regurgitating facts. Success in Business, is all about forging new paths, having vision, taking initiative when no one is telling you what to do. Creating value. Which is why women make excellent Secretaries to men.

  211. I think I might be a woman... If what this opinion has to say about what school does for women is true.

  212. Ms. Damour is correct, but she re-discovers what every "little professor" (Aspergers) boy already knew, in our form-over-substance world. I'm sure, there were dozens of people who knew plenty about foreign policy, social injustice, aging, climate change, energy policy and more. Whom did we choose? Donald Trump. Not all of those people who did well in school but lost to Trump were women, but some were. The thesis of the op-ed is not exactly a revolutionary new discovery. I guess the women just need to learn how to lie and boast like jerks. In fact, many women have caught on. Depending on the demographic, half or more voted for Trump. They must know the truth.

  213. This analysis is correct. Take the phenomenon of "imposter syndrome." Women are plagued by it. Men, on the other hand, also experience "imposter syndrome," but unlike women they think it is fun (a challenge or adventure to get by on one's wits).

  214. Our women need help, for sure. Lots of unfairness. Let's look at our boys. They are in trouble. They drop out of school more than girls. They are kicked out more. They are given Ritalin more. They go to jail more. They commit suicide 4 TIMES as often. They go on to receive only 40% of college degrees. A couple of generations ago, we finally saw that girls were not getting a fair shake in our schools. We got to work to help girls, and it worked! They now are ahead of our boys. Now it's our boys who need help, but there seems to be far less energy to help them. Indeed, best-selling feminist writer Hanna Rosin (The End of Men) says that many women see these issues for boys not as problems to be solved, but as victories to be celebrated. Our boys need help just as much as girls did when they were "behind in school." Our boys deserve that help just as much. Some will say they don't because of the history of bad treatment of girls. But let me ask this: If half of our children--let's imagine 50% of our kids had red hair, and those kids had the same stats named above for boys--would we deny help to those red-headed kids? I don't think so. Nor should we deny needed help to the 50% of our kids who happen to be boys. They should be no more penalized for their gender than girls should be.

  215. U2 said it best... "And I still haven't found what I'm looking for.." That's what I think when I read these articles, that's what I think about Feminism ... They can have it all and it's still never enough...

  216. A huge problem that is not even mentioned in this piece is the extent to which women are punished for doing well because they both threaten male dominance and raise the performance bar.

  217. The notion that girls (or anyone) should do just enough to maximize the reward then turn their brains off is laughably poor advice. Most people do not end up in a tightly controlled corporate environment where doing more than expected of you is pointless. It's when you go past what is expected of you that you truly learn and truly succeed. And don't forget that Harry and Ron would have been lost without Hermione's guidance on numerous occasions.

  218. Girls need confidence building such as team sports. They are encouraged to act on their own and to gang up on one another.

  219. Men are filled with unwarranted confidence and braggadocio. They do better in the workforce because they think themselves better than they are and other people buy into it. I listen to more men talking about me me me me me and how great I am, in all sorts of public places and workspaces. You don't hear women doing that. When women talk about themselves they are put down for it. When men talk about themselves other men paid rapt attention. This makes them seem more competent than they really are.

  220. This article ignores one of the key things that differentiates boys from girls. So much of confidence comes from risk-taking and boys are more inclined to take risks. For example, a boy stands at the base of a large tree and decides, despite his fear, that he is going to tackle that tree. He spends an hour making several attempts and falls a couple times, but he keep going up the tree until he reaches the branch he had in his sights. Meanwhile, a girl spends the same hour in her room "polishing" her school assignment that she has already been working on for two hours. She gets an A and he gets a B because he went out and climbed that tree instead of focusing that hour on his schoolwork. Which one of these kids is more likely to have the skills to succeed in a life full of obstacles and risks and twists and turns? Let the girls out of their cages and let them run free and climb trees and get dirty and yell and fall down. Then you'll have women who can compete with men.

  221. I taught at a women's college for 20 years. It took real effort to get my students to speak up in class. They generally seemed to be worried that they not have the right answer and that they might look dumb. I now teach at a coed school. I can't get the guys to shut up and they definitely are not worried about looking dumb or what I think about them. I have to make a special effort to give the women the opportunity to contribute. Unfortunately I often have to force them to speak up. As tough as this can be I feel it is important for their future success.

  222. @Peter Sounds like the admissions office isn't that great at picking talent or maybe they don't have have a great pool to choose from to begin with.

  223. Are we really going to try to encourage our kids to work less but “smarter”? This obnoxiously arrogant mentality is going to get the American worker kicked in the teeth. We’re already sliding behind in education and workforce competency compared to other nation’s standards. As the marketplace becomes more about global competition, this is not what we want to teach our children, regardless of their sex or gender.

  224. And girls are raised to please, appease the system. Boys to run amok. Boys are not raised to conform, unless its sports or bullying. Where girls are raised to conform, to be a "type." Don't like it, but its clear to those watching adults at work. Who's the first to crack a joke? The guys. Who's the first to shake their head at bad behaviors? The girls. Men, boys have to be brought in, often by force, to proper behaviors. Women have been doing it for decades...you have to force them to break norms.

  225. This is not rocket science - so to speak. The number one path to senior management and running a company is simple - get an engineering degree - one of the big four. The fact that women now share law and medical degrees but not engineering is a mystery that needs to be solved. And yeah - those first two were just as 'mean' to women when they first showed up but they got over it. Your GPA is less important than your technical degree.

  226. Problem is that girls are punished for being confident or over-confident, as well as for being more self-consciously "holding back." There IS no perfect way, or as I've heard it said about race: i.e., there is no way to test your way out of racism, institutional or individual. Racism is to the core, and so is sexism. Confident women are constantly harassed, or else become victims of schadenfreude when they flub in any way, small or large. Please go back to the drawing board on this one. Confident women, too, are constant recipients of campaigns by their male counterparts to "outsmart" them.

  227. How about we stop blaming women for a power structure that favors even the most mediocre males? How about we stop saying that women need more confidence, when what we actually need is fair treatment in the workplace?

  228. The american office is an aggressive environment. People don't play nice. And unlike school no one tells them to or enforces the rules — quite the contrary, in american business life competitiveness designed to "win" is worshipped in it's own right as a sort of religious ritual. Everyone is pitted against everyone else all the time — despite the bizarre need to still say that team work is valued. It's a bit like the virgin mary, teamwork is, a confusing holdover from a distant age. You can't be a mother and a virgin at the same time. And you can't be successful in american business and nice, or deferential, or cooperative, or submissive, or kind. Yu can however throw mud, watch it cling, gossip, be snarky, pushy, demanding, entitled. American women don't get ahead in business because at school they internalized good values. Neglected boys (oh yes, both fathers and mothers tend to neglect them) are simply less likely to play fair. They catch on to ugly truths sooner after graduation because they experienced them during their school years.

  229. Yep, men are walking talking exemplars of the Dunning-Kruger effect. From the Wikipedia: this effect is "a cognitive bias in which people of low ability have illusory superiority and mistakenly assess their cognitive ability as greater than it is."

  230. @JFR Really? You haven't met plenty of women who fit the same profile? Maybe it just goes by a different name. The diva effect?

  231. "And yet, men nonetheless hold a staggering 95 percent of the top positions in the largest public companies." This needs to be clarified to state, white men, hold a staggering 95 percent..." All of the corporations I've worked for, the vertical strucutural heirarchy resembled ante-bellum plantations, where, overwhelmingly, white men, occupied the top tier positions (the positions that made the most money, had the best opportunities to make the most money, and carried the most prestige) and no, it wasn't all a meritocracy. There were plenty of stupid, offensive, ill mannered, despicable white men occupying these positions, it's called the network. Most lower tier positions, supported these masters, and the money flowed upward, and barely trickled down.

  232. This simple... Tell your daughters, your patients – anyone – a couple of things: > Your capacity for – and entitlement to – reason, every bit as valid and valued as your capacity for – and motivation to – recall > The he said/she abuse of recall is every bit as prevalent in everyday-life abuse of reason. Learn to spot impending abuse, and tack from it > Your sense of reason – which is as fundamental to your sense of self as is your sense of recall – can be shared, or even merged, with others. But it’s like checking your coat – make sure when you leave, you don’t forget yours or take the wrong one Your point about anything 90 and above being an A is spot on... Not sure how to formally prove it – but the optimal trade-off for balance vs success seems time and again to be to strive for the 85th percentile... Yeah, for Highlanders, there can be only one... Most other life’s work a bit more open-ended... PS Don’t vie to be the Highlander – and don’t work for one, either...

  233. whilst agreeing with the post that childcare is huge, I observe 4-11yo kids in childcare and here's my take ... I see girls sitting quietly pleasantly chatting when a boy will suddenly run up to see what they are doing, and probably knock a lot of stuff over because that's his idea of fun. The girls will typically stop and look at him with dismay - but say nothing - whereupon he will walk away looking for something else to knock over. When they start looking for boyfriends their internal struggle of wanting to look nice yet not losing themselves comes up against competitive struggles with other females for the attention of their desired mates - so that's a tough one. In terms of confidence, the most confidence I see are girls that play team sport or at least gymnastics - 5-6yos love to show off cartwheels or hula hoop skills. Girls who feel physically confident tend to be verbally confident. Girls who mope around because they're overweight and can't keep up with the other kids running fast, tend to be verbally avoidant as well. One such girl I repeatedly sought to engage in conversation, always avoided any real discussion. She's found a friend - just a different way. My favourite girl was the oldest of three sisters - was competitive and almost always won any competition she entered - if a boy yelled in her face she'd immediately yell back 'HEY !!!' - then pull a wide smile - an irresistible combination - confidence and you-don't-just-push-me-and-get-away-with-it

  234. The difference isn't really perfection; its that boys aren't there to 'get the grade'. They are there to get the knowledge and mastery, and aren't going to waste time moving the 98 up to a 100. The ROI just doesn't work when there are sports, vehicles, ecs, and after school jobs to spend that time on.

  235. @ARL I guess boys just have an innate sense of ROI that girls do not. /snark

  236. I didn’t realize a desire for knowledge and mastery was a male trait.

  237. Or maybe it’s because there’s more sexism in the workplace than in a 8th grade homework assignment. Just saying.

  238. @MH Are you a clinical psychologist that has studied this issue? I love how carelessly you dismiss this opinion piece, trying to rise above it in a single casual sentence. We should question the fallout downstream from this opinion. Perhaps there is more sexism in the workplace because women are less confident?

  239. @Jay MH is entitled to an opinion, and does not need to be a clinical psychologist to express one. You don't need a PhD to know that workplace experiences with sexism and discrimination are real and ongoing, and saying that women's "lack of confidence" may be the cause smacks of blaming he victim.

  240. @MH: Yep, girls are taught to be nice, follow rules, be responsible, etc. They are rewarded for this. Boys can break rules and be 'bad' and people will say it's just boys being boys. Rule-breaking and risk-taking has its rewards in the business world. It's probably also why we see sexual harassment in the workplace. Boys are taught to take risks and break rules and girls are taught to be nice and quiet and to not report (knowing they'll be blamed if they do). It's a cultural set-up.

  241. Maybe male success vs. female success in the workplace has nothing to do with school performance & self confidence one way or the other? maybe it's just about prejudice - male bosses being more comfortable putting other males , rather than females into executive positions?

  242. @Jenifer Wolf or maybe not

  243. @Jenifer Wolf: I don't think you can rule out any of these factors. In any case, the article is about the behaviors and results of boys and girls in school, and differences in confidence and competence seem well documented. Those won't magically disappear after graduation.

  244. @Jenifer Wolf Here is a thought. Why don't the females start their own companies? What percentage of major companies were started by females? Go and start a real company then you can hire as many females as you want.

  245. It's very common to see a man advance to positions beyond his capability if he is tall and has a "commanding" physical presence. It's also common for that same individual to hire and promote similar. This is particularly true if they also share the same culture. For women, different rules apply. Confidence, hard work, and diligence can only get you so far. The article is too narrow in focus.

  246. @OldSchoolTechie- You make very valid points. Even the quote from the books by Katty Kay and Clair Shipman miss much of their analysis.

  247. @OldSchoolTechie Could you please tell me what percentage of major companies were started by women?

  248. @OldSchoolTechie very very good point about commanding physical presence of men-also women. This is an issue of confidence, self confidence. For small men and women there’s a lot of “catch up” needed from childhood. Other factors are: parental role modeling of confidence, being in the right ethnic group, popularity, athletics, to name a few. It may take a lifetime to catch up and too late to be a corporate or political bigshot, but enough to finally lead a good self confident life.

  249. When I was much younger, I considered joining the Army. When I took the tests, there were about ten men and I was the only woman. The tests covered all kinds of things, from auto mechanics to math, reading comprehension to electronics. After completing the tests, the recruiter told each person their scores. Some of the young men were told they didn't qualify. Others were told they did okay in one subject but not the others. He told each man their scores and one by one the men left the building. When I was all alone with him, he told me I aced all the subjects, he'd never seen such high scores, and I could go anywhere I wanted, including officer's training school. I didn't say anything but I wondered why he waited until all the men left to tell me how well I did. I suspected he didn't want the men to know how much better I did. I did not join the Army solely because of the way he acted embarrassed by my good scores. Why don't women who do well in school not do well in the office? I suspect some of it is because men still have trouble being around smart women, just like the Army recruiter couldn't let the men know how much better I scored than they did.

  250. @Linda I disagree with your assumption. I once got the highest mark in a class of 120. I didn't work very hard, missed a bunch of classes but since I loved history and had studied for the exam I got the highest mark. When the exams were handed back the teacher admonished the class for having below average results. When I was handed back my exam by the prof he whispered good job but no one else heard it because he whispered it. I was male. So what?!

  251. You are entirely missing Linda’s point! Her result was not announced publicly because she was the only woman. Are you telling us that you were the only male in your group of 120? Only then you could counter.

  252. @Linda I enjoyed your story. I also believe that there are plenty of employed women who believe that once other women have children, they should leave or seek to lessen their workload or dampen their ambition--or both. Women who are co-workers or bosses have firm beliefs steeped in patriarchy, too, and also act to directly or indirectly promote them.