Imposter Syndrome: What’s it and the way to struggle it
- August 5, 2022
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When talking to executives, leaders or entrepreneurs and successful women about their careers, it’s hard not to come across episodes where they felt insecure, almost like frauds to be discovered at any moment.
This feeling has a name. THE imposter syndrome it especially affects women and is characterized by thoughts that reinforce the lack of confidence and the feeling that the success achieved was not deserved, according to the Institute of Psychology at USP.
Research by the University of Georgia showed that 70% of female executives surveyed felt like a fraud at work. The syndrome undermines the confidence of 75% of women in the market, according to another study carried out in 2020 by the management consultancy KPMG. Among the 700 female executives interviewed, 56% feared that the people around them would not believe they were as capable as expected.
Nearly half of women report that they suffer from the syndrome because they didn’t expect to reach the level of success they did. And most of them nurture this kind of thinking when taking on a new leadership role or moving up in the profession.
This was the case for the current Boticário’s marketing director, Renata Gomide. The day before receiving a proposal to take over the communication area of Eudora, the group’s brand, she discovered that she was pregnant. And the imposter syndrome nearly drove her to give up. “I wondered if I was the right person for the job, if I would have the ability to do what needed to be done during pregnancy.”
But she overcame that insecurity, took the job, and continued to climb the career ladder. The executive says that she learned to deal with this feeling following a piece of advice she began to give to other women. “If you’re scared, go scared.”
The more success, the more insecurity
The term “imposter syndrome” was coined in 1978 by American psychologists Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes of Georgia State University. His research with 150 women showed that the more successful they were, the more insecure they felt.
This is no accident. At the time, the job market was very male, and it was only from the 1970s onwards that the presence of women intensified due to economic, social and cultural changes. The expansion of the economy, industrialization and increasing urbanization favored this entry, as did the women’s movements, the fall in the fertility rate and the expansion of access to education.
Today, large companies recognize the benefits – including financial – of having women in high positions and create programs to encourage female leadership, which still needs to be worked on in different spaces.
In Brazil, the women occupy 38% of leadership positions, according to a survey by global consultancy Grant Thornton this year. But many professionals, in different areas, did not have female references when starting their careers, which has been changing and can make a difference in the lives of young women. “Women tend to suffer more from imposter syndrome because they are often the only ones or the first to assume that role, which can result in greater pressure,” she says. Janine Goulart, partner at KPMG.
The biomedical officer responsible for the team of scientists that sequenced the SARS-CoV-2 genome in record time, Jaqueline Goes did not know she could be a scientist until she saw other women in this place. The position, until then, was reserved for the stereotype of the white, middle-aged man, from which she, as a black woman, was far from.
After gaining the spotlight and being honored with samba plot and even a Barbie doll, she still questions this success. “Do I deserve it? This question always arises, I am the biggest proof of the imposter syndrome.”
One of the symptoms of the syndrome is the self sabotage. When you find yourself in a place you believe you don’t deserve, the tendency is to give up or diminish your achievements and distance attention.
Many professionals think they are not qualified enough to take on senior positions or leadership positions. A survey released by recruiting platform InfoJobs shows that 73.7% of women feel they need to be more qualified than men to take on leadership roles.
But qualification is not always the biggest problem. With 20 years of experience in technology, Cíntia Barcelos, Bradesco’s current CTO, heard the term for the first time in a lecture and identified many of her insecurities. “Now it seems like a light comes on, every time I start to do that I notice it and stop.”
How to beat imposter syndrome
O self knowledge it is essential to recognize this feeling when facing a challenging situation and to be able to move forward to develop and grow in your career, says Janine Goulart, from KPMG. This is because, according to her, there is a false impression, reinforced by social media, that a woman must be perfect and ‘take care of everything’.
Tips for leaders to support women overcoming imposter syndrome
1. Have solidary leadership;
2. Be part of a collaborative team that creates a sense of belonging;
3. Work as a team;
4. Have an inclusive culture;
5. Create an environment that appropriately values and rewards women;
6. Offer mentoring processes.