A recent article from slate.com explores the disturbing trend of successful women in the workplace being more likely to think of themselves as less competent and worthy of the success they have achieved–a phenomenon known as imposter syndrome.
Do Women Everywhere Suck at Their Jobs?
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In the age of Lean In and female breadwinners and the polysemy of the work stiletto, we are all thinking a lot about professional women. And professional women are thinking a lot about themselves: In Pacific Standard, Ann Friedman looks at impostor syndrome, the phenomenon by which high-achieving careerists feel unqualified for their jobs, regardless of the positive feedback they earn. Impostorism is “a nervous undercurrent that runs through your day-to-day experience, unacknowledged, only to crop up in salary negotiations or in small phrases like, ‘It might just be me but….’ or ‘Not sure I know what I’m talking about,’ ” Friedman writes. While it is prevalent in women, it occurs in men too, especially minorities who fear they owe their success to affirmative action.
A lot of columnists have taken on impostor syndrome, to the point where a template has emerged. The writer leads with a shocking example (World Health Organization chief Dr. Margaret Chan thinks she’s a fraud! So did Sheryl Sandberg! So do three-quarters of Harvard Business School students!) and then offers up some facts (the informal impostor syndrome diagnosis goes back to a 1978 paper by psychologists Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes, who observed symptoms in more than 150 lady professionals). Questions are posed: What makes the modern workplace such a confidence desert? Are professional expectations unreasonably high? (“Wanted: a gifted communicator with fresh ideas, a stellar work ethic, mastery of all Microsoft and Internet technologies from 1970 until now, a pleasant demeanor, a proven track record in everything and anything, and no stinky lunches.”) Or do we all just suck at our jobs? Read the rest of this entry »