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HomeThe Confidence Code Discussion

The Science and Art of Self-Assurance - What Women Should Know


On August 7, 2014, women from the University of Chicago Women’s Business Group came together to discuss a new book, The Confidence Code, written by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman, authors of the New York Times Bestseller, Womenomics. The book discusses the neuroscience of the human mind, how women are wired differently and how to use those differences to our advantage. While the book also discusses some disadvantages of the female brain, the good news is that our brains are malleable. UCWBG members shared stories about work, home life and situations they may have handled differently had they read some of this research. The action of getting together and discussing the research was incredibly empowering and also a testament to the UCWBG community of women.


The makeup of our brains influences our attitudes, thoughts and behaviors. Women have distinct natural advantages and it is important to recognize them and not jettison away what makes us strong. Dr. Daniel Amen’s research shows that the prefrontal cortex which controls judgment, organization, impulse control and planning is more active in women. He has identified five strengths in women that play key roles in leadership: empathy, collaboration, intuition, self-control and appropriate worry. Another interesting discovery: men have more gray matter in their brains, while women have more white matter. The presence of white matter means that there are more neurological connections in women’s brains between the left and right side, so women can work both sides of their brains more easily, making us strong at integrating information and broad reasoning. 


The challenges women face can be modified. One of these challenges is that in women’s brains, the amygdala tends to be more active than in men. The amygdala is the worry center of the brain. In a McGill University study, it showed that women produce about 52% less serotonin in their brains than men, and serotonin helps to keep the amygdala quieter. Meditation is a great way to calm the fear center and it has shown that with meditation, the amygdala actually shrinks over time. Observe your thoughts and banish the negative automatic thoughts and replace those thoughts with more positive alternative points of view. Rewiring the brain is possible and the reframing of thoughts becomes a habit. Furthermore, in a study of twins, it was shown that self-perceived ability was a significant predictor of achievement, more important than IQ. So, belief in your success stimulates action which creates more confidence and more action. In other words, stop ruminating over it and just do it. 


In considering the science and the data, it is little wonder why new research is showing that diversity leads to better corporate outcomes. Recently, it has been show that publicly traded companies with women on their boards of directors outperform those that have no women. Teamwork and diverse ideas are powerful, and helping to control group think has been shown to lead to better results. 


Other Tips From the Book

  • Banish “upspeak”: don’t turn your statements into questions, speak with authority.

  • Don’t get down on yourself for making mistakes. Learn and move on.

  • Reviewing your decisions with an eye to improvement is a strength as is admitting mistakes.

  • Face your fears head on; can be effective in showing that they were unfounded to begin with.

  • Perfectionism is a confidence killer! It inhibits achievement, so just do it; take action vs. over-analyzing. When in doubt, act.

  • Practice a willingness to learn, successful people aren’t always naturals, they are doers.

  • Practice power positions: sitting up straight, etc.

  • Don’t care what people think of you.

  • Expressing some vulnerability can be a strength, especially if it connects you to others.

  • When confidence emanates from our core and is authentic, we are at our most powerful.


Click here to view the original event page.


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