Do you ever feel like you’re a fraud?
If so, you’re not alone.
In a landmark study in the 1970s, psychologists Pauline Clance and Suzanne Ikes identified the impostor phenomenon (which we call “impostor syndrome” today) as an “internal experience” of “intellectual phoniness” which appears to be particularly prevalent among “high achieving women.”
As International Women’s Day approaches, I’m pondering the reasons why imposter syndrome is more prevalent and intense among women rather than men.
The same study found that we’re especially likely to experience impostor syndrome when we find ourselves in a role that would have been unfamiliar or out of reach for our parents. And so, the higher we rise in an organization, the more likely we are to feel inadequate.
A finding in our Women in the Workplace report echoes this idea. At the average U.S. workplace, 87% of male executives feel included at work. For women in the same position, it’s 82%.
Other studies also found that societal gender stereotyping caused many highly successful women to attribute their achievements to luck, mistaken identity or faulty judgement on the part of their superiors, rather than to their own abilities.
Does impostor syndrome keep women from becoming CEOs?
The share of women CEOs among the Fortune 500 is only 6.6 percent. Does impostor syndrome play a part in keeping women out of the boardroom?
It just might. A study published by HBR on women executives found that many women don’t see themselves as future CEOs. Of the 57 female CEOs interviewed by Korn Ferry,
“Five had always wanted to be CEO, and three never wanted to be but took the job out of a sense of responsibility. Two-thirds said they didn’t realize they could be CEO until someone else told them, describing themselves as intensely focused on driving results rather than on their advancement and success.”
Incredible: most women CEOs didn’t realize that becoming CEO was even an option! That troubling data point speaks volumes about the need to recognize women leaders in the workplace and show others that the top job can be theirs, too.
With that in mind, here are six inspiring female leaders who are rewriting the story on women.
These women are among the most innovative leaders from companies that are on one or more of these lists: Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For®, Fortune 100 Best Workplaces for Women™, Fortune Best Small and Medium Workplaces™, Fortune Best Workplaces for Diversity™.
Not a phony among them:
5 Transformative Women Leaders You Should Know
1. Heather Brunner, CEO – WP Engine