Although both men and women can suffer from the “impostor syndrome,” women feel it more often and with more intensity. Clinical psychologists Clance and Imes described this experience of not belonging in 1978, after speaking with dozens of women who felt out of place in different professional and educational settings.
Successful actresses, writers, executives, lawyers, accountants, PhDs, physicians or stay-at-home-moms who’ve reported feeling the impostor experience believe they’re living a lie and will be discovered sooner or later. They feel they’re not as good for the job as others think and that their fraudulent success will be over as soon as people find out.
We surely can help the women we work with surpass this limiting experience by letting them know what a good job we sincerely believe they’re doing. But what is crucial is that these women (and everyone else, as a matter of fact) are certain that the feedback they’re getting is truthful. Negative feedback critically allows us to not only understand how we can improve, but also to trust the candor of the person giving it to us.
However, we have to make sure the negative feedback is not coming from perfectionism, a micro-managing attitude, or a crab-in-a-bucket mentality–the “If I can’t get out, no one will” way of thinking.
So, whenever a woman accomplishes something important for her, we, other women around her, should encourage her and help her grow and progress.
We commit to:
In line with this year’s theme for International Women’s Day, we at Templar #PressforProgress and commit to the following specific actions that celebrate women’s achievements.
Believe achievement comes in many forms
Everyone needs to clearly define what success looks like for them. Some women may identify success with having a certain level of income. For others, succeeding might mean having time to pack lunch for their kids every day, running 15 miles a week, or making it to managing director at a financial services firm.
Comparing yourself with other women and their standards is a waste of time and energy. Judge your accomplishments against your own ideals and celebrate every step that gets you closer to your definition of success.
Similarly, acknowledge that other women’s achievements are based on parameters that may be different than your own.
Value women’s individual and collective success
One of the most harming views of women in the workplace is the “queen bee” stereotype. The queen bee is supposedly the successful woman in the male-dominated world who, scared of losing her privileged, unique position, prevents other women to join her at the top.
Whether this is a reality or nothing but a stereotype, we all must work against this perception and commit to valuing every woman’s success. Instead of thinking, “She got lucky” (or “I got lucky”), we should recognise how much work and effort went into whatever she succeeded in and what a good job she did.
In addition, as many women in positions of power have claimed, a critical mass of women in business is necessary to further gender equality where it matters–that is, at the top.
Ensure credit is given for women’s contributions
A common source of dissatisfaction for women in the workplace is not being heard. Picture the all too common scene: a woman shares an idea in a meeting and no one reacts to it. Less than 30 seconds later, a man shares the exact same idea, and people start raving about it.
Besides the fact that many women would benefit from assertive communication training (many men too), we need to ensure that we hear everybody’s contributions. For many reasons, but importantly because if we listen only to the people who speak more loudly, we might be missing out.
Many high-performing teams have a common strength: they cultivate cognitive diversity. A mix of personalities brings balance to teams; different perspectives, mindsets and approaches enrich the solution to every problem.
In Sallie Krawcheck’s opinion, the lack of cognitive diversity paved the road for the 2008 financial crisis. As she recounts in her 2017 book, Own It, overly homogenous thinking bolstered overconfidence and upended the perception of risk. The presence of different viewpoints, the author reasons, would’ve raised the level of risk-awareness.
Celebrate women role models and their journeys
Role models are exceptional people whose lives can inspire others to achieve great things. There are many women who are role models; women whose journeys teach us endurance, resilience, persistence, leadership, compassion, freedom, discipline…
Talk about the women who are your role models. Explain to other women what they do, or did, and why you were inspired by their journey.
Support awards showcasing women’s success
There are award ceremonies being held on a monthly basis, both big and small, all over the world, to celebrate the achievements of women across various sectors and for doing a variety of activities. These awards enhance the representation of women and promote a culture where we place more women role models in the public eye.
Representation matters, especially when studies show that gender equity is still far from being reached whether in the boardroom, C-suite, and in compensation.
By supporting these awards, we celebrate and cheer on women who are achieving amazing successes by fighting an uphill battle.