Imposter Syndrome Holding Women Back

Amie Sparrow
By Amie Sparrow,
updated on Nov 15, 2018

Imposter Syndrome Holding Women Back

New research shows women have lower salary expectations upon entering the job market, affecting the rest of their careers. The culprit behind this could be imposter syndrome

Female grads have lower salary expectations than men, which holds them back from earning as much as men and could set the scene for the rest of their careers, according to new research.

The survey of more than 5,000 graduates by graduate jobs board Milkround showed that female grads have lower salary expectations than male grads, with one third of the women surveyed thinking they will earn under £20,000 in an entry-level role, compared to less than a quarter of men surveyed. The research also showed men had higher expectations for their salaries in five years’ time.

Confidence was named as the top soft skill needed to excel in one’s career by all surveyed, but far more females (41%) reported a lack of confidence than males (28%).

The culprit behind the data is thought to be imposter syndrome, which manifests as a persistent fear of being exposed as a fraud and leaves a person doubting their accomplishments and worth. But imposter syndrome is more than just a lack of confidence, “Imposter syndrome is ... an all-consuming belief that you aren’t worthy of your career achievements, that you’re a fraud and a fear of being ‘found out’, even if all the evidence shows you to be qualified and capable,” author and mental health activist Natasha Devon MBE said.

“Whilst feminism has come on in leaps and bounds over recent years, we still live in a culture where the prototype for success and influence is white, male and middle aged. It’s no wonder, then, that the people most likely to experience imposter syndrome are young women.”

Milkround jobs expert Georgina Brazier explained that confidence issues that affect grads before they even start working can often last throughout their careers. “Our research shows almost half of all graduates think more self-confidence would help them with their job searches. Once employed, we find that graduates are stepping into the workforce with a preconceived idea on salary, that is connected to their self-confidence.”

Here are Nastasha's top tips on how to avoid imposter syndrome:

Know your enemy

Having imposter syndrome can feel incredibly isolating, because by its very nature it is something which makes you feel as though you don’t belong. It’s important to remember it’s both common and, unfortunately, normal – particularly amongst women.

Think like your male counterparts

Studies show that men tend to believe they can do jobs for which they are under-qualified, whereas women are more likely to believe they aren’t right for a role, even if they are overqualified. Think about what your male colleagues may be applying for and channel some of that. Look at their qualifications and experience and measure them, objectively, against yours. It’s usually a reassuring activity.

Combat negative self-talk

We all have an inner critic. Historically, this has served the human species well, it’s essential to have a voice in your head advising caution, especially when running away from a bear. These days, however, the negative voice we’ve evolved to carry around with us is more likely to tell us we aren’t worth a pay rise, can’t do that presentation or will make a fool of ourselves in a meeting. Recognise that voice and tell it to shut up.

Separate instinct from structurally-created beliefs

Human beings learn through repetition, and a lot of what our brain absorbs happens subconsciously. That’s why we’re all, to a certain extent, a product of our culture. We still live in an environment which tells us the prototype for a powerful person is white, male and middle aged. Realise this is a belief system is not representative of you and is not something you would choose to believe of your own free will.

Stop trying to be liked

Women, on average, fear social rejection more than men. This isn’t an attitude which serves anyone well in the workplace. However, we teach people how to treat us. Working for free, never using the word ‘no’ and letting other people take credit for your work might mean less confrontation, but it will leave you underpaid, undervalued and exhausted.

If you believe imposter syndrome or confidence issues are holding you back, speaking to a life coach or counsellor may help.

Photo by Benjamin Child on Unsplash.

Amie Sparrow

By Amie Sparrow

Amie is a contributing writer for Happiful and PR Manager for Happiful and Memiah.

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