75% Of Women Executives Experience Imposter Syndrome In The Workplace
A KPMG study finds 75% of female executives across industries have experienced imposter syndrome in their careers, which is a feeling of inadequacy and self-doubt that makes them continuously doubt if they are qualified enough for the job.
Despite having education, certifications and training, it is hard for them to feel comfortable with who they are and see their worth. Hence, they tend to work long hours to try to prove themselves, are afraid to ask questions or ask for help, and may avoid speaking up or asking for challenging jobs. They also have more anxiety, stress, and burnout, and they spend more time trying to focus on a challenging project because their self-talk is so negative that impairs them.
While there are personal factors that make some people more prone to suffer imposter syndrome, like being mistreated at home compared to other siblings, there are many other workplace aspects that contribute to increasing imposter syndrome:
- The lack of role models or people who look like you, share your background, and are succeeding in your field may make you feel you don’t belong or will never be good enough. For instance, seeing more men in managerial roles can make you think it will be harder to become a manager.
- Racist and sexist comments like women are not good leaders because they're too emotional; women are not good at maths or science. many black women even experience discrimination because their hair makes them look “unprofessional”.
- Not having a supportive performance manager, someone that understands how you feel and takes measures to make you feel better. For instance, a supportive manager provides frequent feedback and offers opportunities to show your experience.
- Not being rewarded fairly. Statistics show a significant pay gap between men and women in similar positions. For example, in 2022, women earned an average of 82% of what men earned, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of median hourly earnings of both full- and part-time workers.
- The lack of confidence nurtured by personal factors or previous experience in other workplaces that didn’t validate your abilities.
Surprisingly, research does not show that imposter syndrome is more significant in women than men, but it suggests that it manifests in different ways. Men tend to underperform avoiding challenging goals and feedback, while women challenge themselves even more to prove their worth, but are never relieved of stress and anxiety, even when performing as expected.
First steps to deal with imposter syndrome:
People with imposter syndrome are usually the brightest in the workplace! They need someone to validate their abilities. If you are one of them, start with these steps to get where you want to get faster:
- Identify that negative self-talk and look for the facts to challenge your thinking. Generalizing like “I never achieve”, or “everyone else always gets” makes it harder to see a positive future. Look for a more realistic outlook, fact-check your thoughts and take action.
- Remind yourself of your achievements. Celebrate them when they come, and keep them on your head when doubts kick in. Identify every day at least one little win, to help you stay positive. Use sticky notes or reminders to keep those wins fresh. You can also get some downloadable inspirational posts online. The most important reminder is that you don’t need that external validation, validate yourself!
- Get a mentor or sponsor at work: when your manager is not supportive enough, you can look for another company mentor. Get help from someone you see as more similar to you, who can understand how you feel and who helps you feel more confident with your current path.
If you find it challenging to get what you want, don’t sabotage yourself by taking it personally. Instead, look for help, inside or outside the company, and identify what is within your control to change.