Aug 4

The 60% Issue by Esther Stanhope

The other day, I was laughing with my client, Phil,  because he was telling me he wanted more women to go for more senior roles in his law firm.

“Why is it that (yes, this is the cliché) men take a punt, where women think they need to be 100% on point when it comes to the job spec?” He said shaking his head. So I shared with him my experience of the 60 % issue!  It’s based on the notion that men will speak up in meetings if they are only 60 percent sure – or less! Where as women just won’t!

I told Phil that I love it when men are invited to women’s networking events because they are often completely shocked by what they hear! And more importantly if they are the key decision makers they can make a difference!

I speak about confidence at hundreds of women’s events in the city for bankers, lawyers, women in tech, data, tax, gaming, politics and film from all over the world. Recently I was speaking at a global bank to an audience of around 150 people and there were probably about 10 quite senior men in the room.

This is the story I shared with them…

Picture this, a long boardroom table at a major bank in London… There are about 6 men and 4 women sitting at the table having a meeting when one of the gents, Henry, pipes up…

“This multi-million-dollar deal is going a bit pear shaped – let’s change the management team immediately!”

The rest of the people around the table seem convinced by Henry’s assertive suggestion, nod their heads and agree to change the project leaders on Monday.

This is the fun part…

When I revealed to the audience, “By the way – Henry is only 60 percent sure about this.”- no one seemed surprised.

However, when I posed the question, “How sure would a woman have to be if she were to pipe up, as Henry did, and change the project team for a multi-million-dollar deal?”

Do you know what the women shouted out?


I’ve asked thousands of women this question – “How sure would you have to be?” – and the average answer to this question is…

“100% sure.”

Well, I replied, “when are you ever 100% sure about anything?  It’s impossible to be 100% sure.”

At this particular event, a smart looking gentleman at the back, put his hand up.

“Um … it’s way lower than 60%.” He said, as he looked around the room to gauge the reaction (of both the 9 men and the 140 women).

“Well, how low were you thinking?” I replied

“Ooh MUCH lower than 60%.”

“Do the rest of the gentlemen in the room agree to this?” I asked as the 10 men looked around at each other.

They all nodded their heads.

“OK,” I said, “how about 50% sure?”

The men checked each other out to see who was going to put their hand up first – no hands!

Do you think they were showing off?

“Alright,” I smirked. “How about 40%?”

No hands from the men, but the 140 women in the room gasped!


The women were now totally gob-smacked and were shaking their heads and laughing!

The men seemed to agree by nodding and winking to each other…

“Yes, that’s about right.” Said the smart young man. “I’d only need to be 30% sure.”


One very senior man secretly whispered to me afterwards, “I’d be happy to be above zero!”

He also revealed to me that he had NO idea that women often want to be 100% and was shocked to witness this discussion first first hand.Wow, what a learning curve both the men and the women experienced that evening!

I’ve spoken to senior women and men for the past 2 years on this subject and they all come up with the same figure. 80% would be the perfect number to aim for – for everyone.

So Remember:
Women sometimes feel they need to be 100% sure! Encourage them to be 80% sure and to share their view, even if it’s not perfect.

Women- you don’t need to be 100% sure – because that’s impossible and that is likely to hold you back in meetings and throughout your career – try for 80% and see how it goes!

If you’d like an entertaining women’s networking event for your organisation to discuss the 60% issue, women, confidence and learn all the top tips on speaking up and getting your voice heard –  email me and let’s speak NOW! I’m 80% sure I can make a 100% difference!

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