Imposter syndrome: Is this an issue for the individual or an endemic issue in our companies’ cultures?

There is evidence suggesting that the prevalence of Imposter syndrome is highest amongst young employees, with the highest numbers amongst women in our workforce. Ranging from feelings of inadequacy to a lack of confidence when making decisions, as well as anxiety surrounding the stability of their roles, do we need to rethink whether this is as a result of individual insecurity or perhaps instead a sign that our businesses are not facilitating environments which instil confidence?

In a study carried out by KPMG it was found that 75% of executive level women had experienced Imposter syndrome and had questioned if they were qualified enough for their positions. Despite being equally, and in some cases, more highly qualified than their male counterparts, there still was an insecurity surrounding whether they were “good enough” for their role.

When presented with such a large percentage it raises the question as to whether there is a larger culture within many companies which instils such a fear? Perhaps women within our workplaces are not wrong to feel this insecurity. Can companies, with true confidence, say that the women working in their businesses are not exposed to levels of sexism throughout their workday?

This study additionally found that some of the leading causes of Imposter syndrome experience by women in the workplace were predominantly due to a lack of role models in senior women. Additionally, the lack of performance management by women and general daily sexism all contributed to higher numbers of work-related insecurities. The gender pay gap and lack of managerial growth opportunities were also factors which contributed to feelings of Imposter syndrome.

It seems almost derogatory to suggest that so many women feel Imposter syndrome just because they are women, and whilst an uncomfortable thought, perhaps women are correct in feeling insecure in workplaces which subconsciously don’t support their success.

Interestingly the reason that many don’t recognise a systemic issue surrounding women and Imposter syndrome, is partially due to female reactions to these insecurities. Whilst men who report having experienced Imposter syndrome tend to underperform and set less self-led challenges for fear of failing, it is reported that women tend to challenge themselves more in a bid to prove their worth. This, however, is leading to women suffering with Imposter syndrome, to experience stress and anxiety silently.

Whilst it is not a comfortable though that there is an issue with the culture of businesses and instead it may be much easier to limit the effect of Imposter syndrome as an individual’s issue, maybe it is important for companies to question how their culture truly supports women? Is there evidence of female role models in the highest positions of our companies so women don’t feel they are venturing alone? Are women exposed to the same guidance and leadership opportunities? Are women in our companies receiving the same pay as male counterparts? Most importantly are businesses prioritising an environment which can make women feel they truly belong and have confidence in their abilities?

Written by Lexie Cook, EP Business in Hospitality