Jackie Greulich '85 on Gender Confidence Gap

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Photo is of Jackie Greulich '85

Over the last six years,  I have noticed a pattern in how female versus male students respond to mock interview questions and how they compare their skills to a job description. I have the luxury of having their McQuaig Assessment​ results, so I already know the predisposition of their “real behavior” and “situational behavior” is and how they will most likely respond to situations.

Real behavior is established at a young age and is based on their belief system and the environment of which their behavior is formed. For real behavior to change, there has to be a major life situation in order to change or alter their belief.  For example, a couple of years ago, a student was by herself at the concert in Vegas where a mass shooting occurred. That tragic experience changed some aspects of her “real behavior." 

Situational behavior provides information on how a person responds to today’s environment, which may be different than their real behavior. Over the last year, during the Covid-19 pandemic, I have observed a pattern in student situational behavior changes—  students who are typically dominant, independent and social are suppressing those behaviors because the environment is literally “shutting-down” these traits. When this happens, an individual finds themselves feeling coop-ed up, ancy, stir-crazy, unhappy, etc. 

My advice to students is to make sure when they are out in the working world that they seek a position that will fit their true or real behavior traits, which will allow them to thrive in their natural personality state, otherwise, they will, in a short time period, realize they are not enjoying themselves. My experience is that within three years students will be seeking another position because they are not well matched for their current position. 

I spend a good amount of time working with students on mock interviews to prepare them for a real interview. I have noticed a pattern in how males versus females project themselves in an interview. In reviewing job descriptions with male students, they tend to focus on two or more skills which they have experience with, and in most cases, they do not mention the other skills which they do not have. On the otherhand, female students are more focused on the skills they do not have experience with and not the ones they do have.

In these mock interviews, I have found a tendency for female students to “tone-down” their dominance, drive and independence by answering questions with less conviction. Males, on the other hand, tend to overstate their skills and come across more confident in their responses. An example of this is when I see a student has noted that they are fluent in Spanish. Since I speak the language, I start asking questions in Spanish. I have found that in the majority of the situations, the student is not fluent, so I advise them to be candid in their resume. 

Within the McQuaig Assessments, I do find similar personality outcomes amongst females and males students when I ask questions about real situations in which they have demonstrated leadership in a group project or a club association, etc. In most cases, females take initiative by scheduling Zoom meetings, dividing up tasks, following up on other team members' sections of a project. So why are females toning down this behavior in an interview? According to a Harvard Gazette story in 2020, women are less inclined to self-promote than men, even for a job. The study explains that female workers' deep discomfort over touting skills and experience adds to the gender gap in promotions and pay.

While some students are demonstrating this gender confidence gap—that is changing at the USD real estate program. The personalized one-on-one coaching approach I use with our students helps them build confidence and encourages them to be specific in describing their role as a leader. A good interviewer will ask lots of questions about a topic to confirm this behavior consists in their answers.  I also advise students to take a few minutes before the interview and breathe deeply and then go to a mirror and raise your arms up as if you just won first place in the Boston Marathon. This helps release anxiety and sends a positive message to the brain. I leave each coaching session with tips on how to dress, follow-up protocols and praise each student for what he or she has accomplished so that they are prepared to ace the interview.

- By Jackie Greulich '85, associate director of real estate student and career services, Burnham-Moores Center for Real Estate


Kimberly Malasky
(619) 260-4786