Women in tech + imposter syndrome: what it is, why it happens, and how to overcome it
Imposter syndrome is a term that is referred to a lot in the tech world. Heck, I’ve used it many times myself to describe the feeling of inadequacy or doubt in my skill set.
While imposter syndrome is felt by both men and women, it is a feeling that almost all women and underrepresented groups have experienced at one point or another.
Further, imposter syndrome is most common amongst those who are a part of these underrepresented groups and who also work in the tech industry. This feeling can be amplified for those who do not come from traditional tech backgrounds.
So, what is imposter syndrome exactly, and why is imposter syndrome so prominent in women in tech?
Imposter syndrome is the feeling of self doubt, of not being good enough, or of being undeserving of accomplishments, despite evidence showing otherwise.
Although you may not be able to see it, imposter syndrome is a feeling that many people can identify with: “What am I doing here?” “My coworkers have given me positive feedback and celebrated my success, but I fear I will be fired when people realize I am not as smart as I’ve made myself out to be.”
It’s no secret that women in tech are underrepresented, in fact only 34.4% of the total tech workforce identify as women. Ideally, we’d all love to see the number of women in tech much higher than that.
Although women who are a part of this 34.4%, should feel a sense of pride and accomplishment for obtaining their roles, many women’s success is overshadowed by imposter syndrome.
Women who feel this are often experts in their field yet they are paralyzed by a fear of failing. They will attribute job success to sheer luck, or knowing the right people in the right places, when the reality is that their success is a result of their hard work, dedication, and expertise. Another common trait of those suffering from imposter syndrome is setting impossible goals and penalizing themselves for even the smallest of mistakes… AKA perfectionists.
Women who are part of male-dominated teams may also be less likely to speak up or take initiative even when they have a lot to offer, despite having education and experience, they find it difficult to break free of doubting their abilities and worthiness to step into higher levels of success.
As you can see, there are many indicators of imposter syndrome, it isn’t one size fits all.
Overcoming feelings of inadequacy begins with understanding what you are actually feeling and why.
Recognizing these feelings when they arise and understanding where these feelings come from is all part of learning to approach these moments of self-doubt with more empathy.
Imposter syndrome can happen to anyone, in fact many talented and successful people deal with the same doubts and feelings of inadequacy that someone who is just starting out in their career might feel. It’s been said that success does not resolve or eliminate Imposter Syndrome, and the key to pushing past these feelings comes from an understanding of why and when they arise in the first place.
You might be feeling that creeping sense of imposter syndrome if you don’t feel represented in your industry, or if you don’t feel like there is a seat at the table for you. Whatever the reason might be, it’s important to remind yourself of what you have accomplished and how you got yourself to where you are today AND remembering that whatever you don’t know or can’t do today, you can learn tomorrow.
We suggest learning the difference between a growth and fixed mindset.
People with a growth mindset believe that their skills can be developed over time through hard work, training, etc. Those who have a fixed mindset believe that their abilities are stagnant. In other words, if they are not good at something, they never will be.
When you change your outlook to a growth mindset and believe that your success can be achieved over time with hard work and determination, it matters less where you are and what you know now.
Another key to combating imposter syndrome is to connect with a mentor, as well as offer your skills as a mentor to others. By sharing your experiences it will help prove to yourself that everyone is at varying steps in their careers and each person’s individual success or stage in their career is just as important as the next person’s. The comparison game is often what kills us.
This also gives you an opportunity to give other women positive reinforcement and feedback. It is important to surround yourself with a network of other women in order for everyone to share their experiences. Words of encouragement can go a very long way.
Wise words from women in our community
Back in March, we hosted a panel discussion on Twitter with over 15 inspiring women in tech. These women shared their experiences, meaningful advice, as well as roadblocks and how they’ve overcome them throughout their careers.
You can read the full recap here, but we wanted to call out one discussion point in particular – click on the tweet below to check out the responses!
The key takeaway here? You are not alone.
— L-SPARK (@LSPARKGlobal) March 4, 2021