Our industry struggles to resonate with and serve women, yet we tend to hold them responsible for our shortcomings. “The confidence gap” is a term used to describe how women fall short to men when it comes to dealing with their financial affairs, and presumably, their advisors. Basically, the industry assumes that if she’s not connecting with what we’re saying, then she has a problem or isn’t confident enough to speak to the issue. But, what if that isn’t the case at all? 

“The confidence gap” is a negative label, limiting women’s self-esteem and underestimating them. The term measures the gap between women’s and men’s confidence against the same scale, and since hers is perceived as lower, people assume there’s a gap; her confidence is “less than” his confidence. But, what if he’s over confident? What if her interpretation of the scale and his are different?     

What If She’s Just Not That Into You?

Traditional research that often concludes a gap exists is structurally biased because it forgets that she is never going to give herself high scores for a half-baked understanding of finance and investing. In that sense, the surveys are rigged, and we’re drawing bad conclusions. Instead of the gap being between her lower confidence and a man’s higher confidence, she grades herself harder and on a different scale.   And, if you don’t understand her and live up to her standards, she may not be that into you. 

We recently completed groundbreaking primary research studies showing that in reality, women just have higher standards. In other words, she’s not going to wing it or pretend to know answers. She will assess herself against her own high standard of what it takes in order to be truly confident and competent.   

We equipped 30 women with smartphone apps and asked them to record the highs and lows of each day, answer questions, and take photos and videos that they felt reflected their daily joys and frustrations. With over 1,700 videos and reams of other data, we collated the findings and then tested the insights with a panel of another 1,000 women to validate themes and segment responses. What we learned about women's “confidence” is that they:

  • Have incredibly high standards in many areas of life

  • Judge themselves harshly against self-imposed ideals of perfection

  • Apply the same high standards to others in their lives

  • Believe their financial life is about achieving their goals and expectations—not a number

We first need to understand the scale of expectations women have, and then we need to make sure we deliver accordingly. The picture drawn from our research was one of smart, busy, empowered women who get frustrated when things aren’t done right. Listening to their videos and reading their comments is enlightening—they are very clear about service quality and the desire to be understood, not talked down to. One broad generalization (apologies to the outliers) is how disappointing a sub-par experience with any service provider or technology can be. They remember mistakes.