Although we know sexism is one of the factors that leads to gender inequality, there is another cause of inequality, particularly in the workplace – the barriers that women put up themselves. One thing that can hold women back is what is sometimes called Imposter syndrome. One example of this is a feeling that you’re a fraud and don’t deserve to be in your job. I vividly remember driving along the motorway heading back into the office from a meeting when I had this overwhelming feeling that one day I would be “found out”. I have no idea why that thought crept into my brain and I must admit I was relieved to find out I wasn’t the only woman who had the same feeling.
Imposter syndrome might also show up as being certain you will fail if you apply for another job or promotion with the result that you don’t apply at all. You might also undervalue your experience or skill.
Women often put their achievements down to luck, rather than hard work. I certainly find myself doing that and although you should acknowledge the people you work with, I find if I’m not careful, I give all the credit for something I’ve worked on to other people.
Because we doubt our abilities and value, we often apologise for our opinions or dress them up in conciliatory language. For example, “I’m not sure if this right”, or “I don’t know if this will work, but ..”. And do you find yourself using qualifiers like “apparently” and “supposedly” when you know what you’re saying is right?
I think another reason we qualify what we’re saying is that we’re worried that our views might upset someone, particularly if we disagree with them. Or we’re worried that if we put our views forcefully we’ll be called stroppy, aggressive or a bitch. Unfortunately there is a risk that this could happen – you only have to read how successful women are described in the media.
The thing is, though, that if you want to be successful you have to ignore this sort of attitude. You’re not being aggressive, you’re being assertive. And you have to stop that internal voice that tells you that you’re not qualified or good enough. Every time we present ourselves as hesitant or apologetic or give into those that call us aggressive or a bitch, we reduce our chances of advancement.
So get out there and speak confidently and trust in your ability and skills – you do deserve to be in your job and you do deserve that promotion!