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SA Journal of Industrial Psychology

On-line version ISSN 2071-0763
Print version ISSN 0258-5200


HERBST, Tessie H.H.. Gender differences in self-perception accuracy: The confidence gap and women leaders' underrepresentation in academia. SA j. ind. Psychol. [online]. 2020, vol.46, n.1, pp.1-8. ISSN 2071-0763.

ORIENTATION: The study reported here explores the preconceived notion of women's missing agency - characterised by a lack of confidence - as an explanation for their continued underrepresentation at senior leadership levels in higher education institutions (HEIs) in South Africa. RESEARCH PURPOSE: The study investigated gender differences in self-perception accuracy, defined as self-other agreement. The concept of confidence in this article refers to a high degree of self-perception accuracy defined as self-other rating agreement. Motivation for the study: One of the reasons for the underrepresentation of women in senior leadership levels frequently cited in the literature is the relationship between self-confidence and effective leadership. This phenomenon has however not yet been researched in the context of South African HEIs. RESEARCH APPROACH/DESIGN AND METHOD: A quantitative, cross-sectional study of gender differences in self-perception accuracy using data collected from a 360-degree assessment intervention amongst the total population (N = 112) of academic managers in a HEI in South Africa was conducted. The realised sample consisted of 74 managers with an average of 9.5 raters per participant. MAIN FINDINGS: The results revealed that significant gender differences with regard to self-perception accuracy emerged. This was in spite of the fact that male and female leaders were perceived to be equally effective by their raters. PRACTICAL/MANAGERIAL IMPLICATIONS: The implications of women leaders' inaccurate self-perceptions on their career progression and the design of leadership development programmes aimed at improving gender disparity are discussed. Contribution/value-add: This study contributes to scientific knowledge regarding the factors that contribute to the slow advancement of women to senior leadership positions in HEIs.

Keywords : self-confidence; gender; higher education; leadership; 360-degree feedback; self-perception accuracy.

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