Imposter Syndrome Is Holding Women Leaders Back and the Key is Confidence
Lack of opportunity, lack of confidence and lack of vision are major factors that play into the success of all women. Change the system to institute real gender equity in your organization.
By Audrey McGuckin, CEO, WOTW -
Gender equity issues are deeply rooted. When it comes to women leaders we find that lack of opportunity, lack of confidence, and lack of vision are a few of the major factors that play into the success of all women. Fixing those lacks is a key to solving gender equity issues within an organization. It’s one of the pieces of the corporate system that must be addressed to grow women leaders into their full potential.
At WOTW, we find that much of this lack of confidence stems from imposter syndrome. What is imposter syndrome? Wikipedia defines it as “a psychological occurrence in which an individual doubts their skills, talents, or accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a fraud.”
We know, it’s difficult to look at the ways in which women are being held back in your organization. As a leader, it is tough to see the limitations in your organizational structure that are tearing down their confidence. But it’s work that makes a huge difference.
Our motto is “If you can’t see the system you can’t navigate it.” Doubts/imposter syndrome are part of that corporate system and they hold women leaders back. Our goal is to shine a light on those pieces of the system and address those issues. By doing this, it enables women to cultivate the vision and capabilities needed to succeed within their organizations. After all, gender-diverse companies are 21% more likely to experience above-average profitability.
Our Navigator program focuses on how to overcome imposter syndrome. Women engage with a Navigator facilitator and their peers to uncover personal doubts and address them. In our last Navigator session on confidence, Dr. Nayla Bahri covered issues around confidence and imposter syndrome. She first asked, “What do you do or not do as a result of your relationship with confidence?” She then asked Navigator attendees to uncover the beliefs and stories they held around confidence.
The big takeaways were that confidence is an expendable and renewable resource, a muscle that is built over time and requires training. By working on confidence, women leaders can overcome imposter syndrome. This was an AHA moment for many of us!
Dr. Bahri also uncovered how confidence is an internal job, sourced through our personal selves. By tapping into personal integrity, curiosity, whole self, and connection, women leaders can access their own confidence and therefore diminish or extinguish imposter syndrome. These confident women can then ask for what they deserve and expect it from their bosses and their teams.
She asked our Navigator women to think about who they are when they are most consistently confident. They identified the values they have in place that bring in confidence. It was an empowering session that left our Navigators, well, more confident and less willing to accept imposter syndrome into their lives.
And the result? These women are becoming confident and empowered leaders that build up others around them.
So the next time you are trying to solve a gender equity issue within your organization take a moment to think about how you are fueling confidence in your women leaders. What systems do you have in place to support that? What organizational structures might be diminishing confidence? Then make a conscious move to change the dynamics that no longer work for you and your teams.
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