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How Gender Discrimination at Work Impacts Confidence

Facing discrimination at work shakes your confidence, no matter your gender. But the psychological consequences of gender discrimination affect men and women differently.

According to research by the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business, as published in the Academy of Management Journal, gender discrimination affects women’s self-efficacy—one’s confidence in the ability to carry out work tasks—by reinforcing perceived assumptions about women’s lack of competence or suitability for leadership roles.

The researchers found that low self-efficacy is associated with low motivation, disengagement from work tasks, and other negative outcomes that can impact women’s careers and outcomes within the organization.



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Disengaged workers have 37 percent higher absenteeism, 49 percent more accidents, and make 60 percent more errors, according to a study by Queens School of Business and the Gallup Organization.

Approximately 42 percent of U.S. women have experienced discrimination at work because of their gender, according to a 2017 Pew Research Center report, and women are more likely than men to believe they have been treated as if they are incompetent, earn less pay than male counterparts for the same work, receive less support from senior leaders, or be passed over for important assignments.

The Marshall School of Business research found that men also experience perceived gender discrimination at work, although the majority of cases resulted from a belief that organizations are likely to discriminate against men to reduce discrimination against women—passing over a qualified man for a leadership position in favor of a woman candidate instead, for example.

“Anyone who is not confident in their abilities will never likely achieve their ultimate potential, feel proud of their contributions, or grow their skills to the extent they could,” Deb Boelkes, author of Women on Top: What’s Keeping You From Executive Leadership, told the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). In addition, she added that if gender discrimination goes unresolved, it could create a toxic work environment that could undermine the organization as a whole.

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