Cracking the Confidence Code

Journalist and Author Claire Shipman Discusses Women in the Workplace and Self-Image at Annual Robbins-Wilf Lecture

Why do men apply to jobs when they meet only 60 percent of the qualifications, while women only apply when they meet all of them, according to a recent study cited in Harvard Business Review?

Claire Shipman, author and senior contributor for ABC News

That question and others about female confidence in the workplace were explored in a lecture by journalist and best-selling author Claire Shipman as part of the Dr. Marcia Robbins-Wilf Scholar-in-Residence Program at Yeshiva University’s Stern College for Women on November 17. The conversation, moderated by Professor Bryan Daves, was inspired by Shipman’s latest book, The Confidence Code: The Art and Science of Self-Assurance—What Women Should Know, co-authored by Katty Kay, which deconstructs the elusive and essential qualities of confidence often lacking or misunderstood by women.

“There is a shortage of confidence among women,” Shipman said. “Let’s make confidence the new karma—it can make us better students and employees. It is something we can control.”

Shipman warned the audience that building confidence is a struggle for women of all ages and in all professions. “Younger women face the same issues about confidence,” she said. She advised that any woman in pursuit of confidence must not put on a suit of armor and “fake it,” but instead focus on owning her opinions and experiences. “Confidence is not just a mindset, it’s based on action,” she said.

Shipman serves as senior contributor for ABC News’ “Good Morning America,” “World News” and “Nightline,” covering politics and other national and international news stories. Citing scientific studies and interviews with leading women in politics, sports and the military, as well as her own personal experiences in the workforce and as a mother, Shipman recommended that by simply taking action and courting risk, women can change the physical wiring of their brains to output more self-assurance. “We have a problem where we glorify success and don’t embrace failure,” she said. “That creates false confidence.”

Body image, mentorship and how to be “nice” but firm were just a few of the concerns raised by students and alumni in the Q and A session that followed the lecture. Shipman drew from her life experiences to shed light on some of the tough realities that face new graduates and early-career professionals.

The event was held at YU’s Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law and co-sponsored by CLAW, Cardozo’s Leadership Association for Women, under the auspices of the Dr. Marcia Robbins-Wilf Scholar-in-Residence program. Dr. Robbins-Wilf, a founding member of the Stern College Board of Directors, established and funds the Scholar-in-Residence program, which brings top scholars, authors, artists and opinion makers to Stern College—offering students unique perspectives on the world.

“The idea that you have a voice to be heard is an important lesson for anyone at any age,” said Talia Stern, a senior at Stern College. Stern believes that message was in line with the goals of Stern’s S. Daniel Abraham Honors Program. “Particularly as young women about to enter the workforce in many different professions—as nurses, doctors, lawyers, educators or community leaders—the message that we are capable and able is invaluable,” she said.

Shalva Ginsparg, also a senior at Stern College, said, “I thought it was a great event that gave me a lot of food for thought about how we, as women, often undervalue ourselves or do a poor job advocating for ourselves in a work setting.” She added, “Shipman’s personal story—how she became a world-famous journalist by taking risks and not allowing a lack of confidence to sideline her—was an inspiring one for me and, I imagine, for many of the students in attendance.”