05/19/2014 11:51 am ET

Why It's Great That Women Say ‘I Don't Know'

muharrem Aner via Getty Images

Of all the gaps facing the modern woman, there is one I’m committed to never closing. It’s the “I don’t know” gap. In studies, women are shown to hold themselves to a higher standard of expertise than men before providing an opinion on a subject, even though they do not, on average, know less about those subjects than men. This is the reason mansplaining is more rampant than womansplaining, and it makes me unequivocally happy to be a woman. But, as with all things female — crying, periods, breasts — some argue that this reluctance to be a total blowhard contributes to men’s dominance in the work place.

Yesterday, the New York Times called it the “I don’t know” problem: If political pollsters give women an “I don’t know” option, their voices “become muted or silent.” The Times also invoked Katty Kay and Claire Shipman’s The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance — What Women Should Know. The corporate feminist self-help book wraps the IDK gap into the larger confidence gap, citing a University of California, Berkeley, business school professor's experiment, in which his class’s biggest bullshitters (who faked knowledge of faux historical terms like “Murphy’s Last Ride”) had the most “respect, prominence, and influence” in the classroom, regardless of their talent or grades. But as Amanda Hess wrote in Slate, the conclusion for women — be more like these arrogant frauds — is too bleak even for the writers to fully endorse.

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