How to Deal With Imposter Syndrome As a Woman in Tech
Have you ever had that sinking feeling that something was off after you shared a project, communicated a new idea, or led a meeting at work? Perhaps you’ve wondered if you were equipped to do your job, qualified to maintain your role, or even if you merited an award you won.
This experience, called “imposter syndrome,” has been studied and discussed since the 1970s, when two psychologists first studied the experiences of high-achieving women. And despite an increased representation of women in the workforce, women are still struggling with imposter syndrome nearly 50 years later.
In the tech sector, men still make up the majority of roles. According to a study by Deloitte, women make up only 32.9% of overall roles in major tech companies (and women are only represented in 25% of technical roles in these large tech companies). It makes sense that many women feel the effects of imposter syndrome.
Remember, you’re not the only one
Imposter syndrome will make you feel like you’re carrying around a big secret that isolates you from everyone else at work. The odds are, though, that other women and minorities in your field have similar feelings. It’s comforting to know that you’re not the only one feeling this kind of stress at work. One of the best ways to proactively manage feelings of imposter syndrome is to equip yourself with research and resources about it. A KPMG study found that 75% of women in executive roles said they had imposter syndrome at some point in their careers. Former First Lady Michelle Obama has said that she experienced imposter syndrome, and so has actress and comedian Tina Fey.
Equip yourself with books, research, and other tools
If you’re lacking confidence in your leadership skills or are concerned about how you show up in the professional world, read up on confidence in the workplace. There are so many books available today to help people develop confidence at work, grow their leadership skills, and improve their communication in the workplace. Science and studies can help you crack the code that is the working world by revealing strategies that work to improve your feelings of confidence.
Some of my favorite books are:
- “Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity” by Kim Scott. She has worked with companies like Dropbox, Apple, Google, and Twitter. Her framework helps leaders learn the lines between constructive criticism, praise, and how to communicate with team members in an effective and meaningful way (without losing connection).
- “The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace: Empowering Organizations by Encouraging People” by Gary Chapman and Paul White. This book is all about connecting with people at work in a way that speaks to them individually.
Make small changes each day
If you’re facing feelings of imposter syndrome on a regular basis, there are small steps you can take each day to build confidence. Positive affirmations can work wonders, especially if you are heading into a difficult meeting or preparing for a presentation. In the mirror each morning before work, affirm yourself, your skills, and your knowledge. Standing up straight and taking deep breaths can help you regulate those feelings of stress that can flare up during the workday. Imposter syndrome feels a lot like anxiety, so many anxiety-management techniques can also help you manage those feelings of imposter syndrome.
And, of course, you’ve probably heard it a million times, but take care of yourself. Rest, proper nutrition, and exercise help us regulate our bodies so that we can handle stress more effectively.
Advocate for yourself and others
As you’re navigating the complexities of imposter syndrome, it’s important to remember the reality that women and minorities are underrepresented in many fields (especially in tech). There is still plenty of growth that must happen before workplaces become the equitable, supportive environments we want them to be. With this in mind, if you witness an instance of prejudice, say something. Don’t be afraid to speak up for yourself and for others. Keep a record, put things in writing, and speak with company leadership about your concerns. While some of your frustrations at work may be the result of imposter syndrome, don’t confuse them with an unhealthy work environment.
Imposter syndrome can feel overwhelming and debilitating, but it doesn’t have to ruin your work experience. Remember that you are not alone; many women and minorities are fighting against those same emotions each day. It takes time to rewire your brain and reframe imposter syndrome, but small changes each day can help you develop confidence at work and silence that accusing voice. As we work through our individual feelings of imposter syndrome, we are becoming more compassionate and aware of the environments we create at work because we are in tune with our need for support and connection in the workplace.