Imposter Syndrome Women Face In The Workplace

Within the workplace ecosystem of India Inc, employers take time to discuss the issue of mental health among workers. Employers have taken several steps to tackle this problem, but they still must do more to reduce the incidence of imposter syndrome that besiege women in the workplace. Imposter syndrome is a problem many women encounter in organizations. Regrettably, many don’t see it as a problem. In fact, it’s being rationalized as positive and a normal phenomenon. If organizations are committed to improving diversity and inclusion in the workplace, they must acknowledge this problem and address it accordingly.

Imposter syndrome describes an extended feeling of self-doubt, low self-esteem, and feeling of incompetence, especially with regards to professional qualification. The concept had existed for a long time, although American psychologist Clance and Susanne Imes coined the term “imposter syndrome” during their study of high achieving women. The imposter phenomenon also causes people to ascribe individual success and accomplishments to luck and external factors.

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Through socialization, the family and the society sow an imposter phenomenon in females. As such, young girls grow into individuals consumed by the fear of failure; thus, preventing them from risk-taking. This situation gives perspective to a particular statistic that is commonplace among HR circles, which describes job application behavior between men and women and has increased the gender gap within the workplace ecosystem. The statistic shows that while women apply for jobs only when they think they meet all the job requirements, men apply for jobs when they meet only 60% of the job requirements.

In terms of choosing a career path, an article published by the Guardian in 2018 showed that the perception of an intelligence formed from a young age influenced the interest of girls in certain career paths, for instance, interest in STEM subjects. There’s more evidence, albeit anecdotal, showing that women would give credit to some external factor when they achieved an individual milestone. This situation has negative implications for organizations, and they must find ways to prevent women from feeling inferior in the workplace environment.

One way companies can eradicate imposter syndrome is by ensuring that more women apply for jobs, by encouraging them to put their hand up for internal career advancement, and by making them feel like they belong. According to a Harvard Business Review in 2014, women don’t apply for many jobs because they have a misconception about the hiring process. As such, organizations must ensure they use friendlier language when drafting their job descriptions. Doing this will reduce the gender gap as seen during applications. When the job descriptions look less intimidating, it will encourage more applications from women.

Organizations can also train hiring managers to identify that there are advantages to having strong managerial abilities and broad learnability that might even outstrip specialized experience. And that hiring candidates from different backgrounds is good for the organization. 

A study by NatWest found that 28 percent of women had stopped themselves from speaking at a meeting, while 21 percent held back from proposing a new idea. To prevent women from having the imposter experience, organizations must create a workplace environment where everybody feels welcome, irrespective of gender, or background. People must have the freedom to express themselves without fear of discrimination or not being taken seriously. If organizations must tackle the problem of imposter syndrome in the workplace, they must address all phases and situations that promote such a phenomenon.


  • Why women don’t apply for jobs unless they are 100% qualified | Tara Sophia Mohr | August 25, 2014
  • Bridging the gender gap: why do so few girls study Stem subjects? | Nathalia Gjersoe | March 8, 2018

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