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Imposter Syndrome In Women – Why Is It So Common?

Imposter Syndrome In Women – Why Is It So Common?

  • Whilst a few men may agree that they too have had self-doubt, even in this experience, there is no equality. Imposter syndrome is felt more prominently by women. Let's explore why.

I have 10 years of marketing experience. I have created several successful brands and catapulted many companies into incredible business growth. There have been many evenings where I have been up completing presentations and making sure client deadlines have been met. I graduated from one of the top schools in the world with an academic excellence scholarship. Yet, when I log onto a business call, sometimes my brains asks, “are you sure you are good enough for this job? If this isn’t feeling like an imposter then I don’t know what is. So why does imposter syndrome hit women, and women of colour so hard?

Feeling Like An Imposter 

You may feel like the only person questioning if you are adequate, but this type of doubt isn’t an isolated experience. Imposter syndrome is rampant in the workplace. It’s common to feel like a fraud even though you are educated and trained to do the work you have been assigned.

But whilst a few men may agree that they too have had self-doubt, even in this experience, there is no equality. The phenomenon is felt more prominently and frequently by women and especially women of colour.


Corporations Fuel Imposter Syndrome In Women

Let’s be honest, when was the last time you walked into an office and saw a 50/50 gender split on the management table? Never? I thought so. 

Even though recent Harvard Business Review research showcased that women score better than men on most leadership skills, the alarming fact remains that since 2002 only 4.9% of Fortune 500 CEOs and 2% of S&P 500 CEOs are women. And those numbers continue to decline globally.

Let’s not stop there.

I have some more scary statistics for you.

Another review has stated that women score just as high as men on factors that determine who becomes a CEO. Yet when those factors are held constant, female candidates for a CEO position are 28% less likely to be hired.

Numbers don’t lie.

And these are screaming that a certain gender is not good enough for the job, fuelling imposer syndrome in women.

It’s Worse For Women Of Colour 

As white women are still struggling for a seat at the table, the place of women of colour in the boardroom is further behind.

The 2020 Colour of Power index shows that just 11 out of 1,099 positions in the UK’s most powerful institutions are held by women of colour. 

According to a recent report on diversity in the boardroom, the number of Black and minority ethnic (BAME) women on boards in FTSE 100 companies is just 3.8%.

The Fawcett Society’s 2020 Sex and Power report further highlights the lack of ethnic minority women across top jobs in all sectors. There are no women of colour represented within the highest levels of the civil service. There has never been a Supreme Court judge who is a person of colour. And BAME women make up just 1% of university vice-chancellors.

The lack of power positions for qualified women and marginalised communities in corporations is society signalling that these groups of people are not sufficient to succeed. 

Without representation, it is no surprise that women feel like an imposter that doesn’t belong in a work environment. 

What can we do as women?

It’s not easy to shake off the anxiety and sadness that comes with feeling not good enough. Perhaps, seeing it for what it is may help – inequality towards a gender rather than your capability to do a task. 

Once we understand the causes of imposter syndrome in women, we can reduce the impact of it. You can start talking about this to your friends, family and most importantly other allies and advocates in the workplace. It’s easier to validate your feeling by expressing them rather than brushing them under the rug.

You can’t always silence your inner critic. But you can make a list of your accomplishments, which I am sure is long, to reiterate your truth.

Raise your hand in a meeting, ask the questions, make the points and be your advocate, not your adversary. 

Want to read more from Ruku? Check out her articles here.


  • Ruku Taneja is the Founder and Managing Editor at She Is Suffolk. Her journalism and writing highlights women's issues in Suffolk and beyond. You can find her on Instagram @rukutaneja.

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