One of the most intriguing facets about us as women is the universal unspoken language that we understand and relay. Despite our differences, the ownership of a multitude of responsibilities; striking a healthy balance between family and work; all the while showcasing resilience against daily biases - are common factors part of this understanding. So, it should come as no surprise when reports show that around 75 per cent of women experience imposter syndrome at some point in their careers.
It goes without saying, feelings of imposter syndrome can create hindrances in women’s careers, often limiting them from achieving their full potential and owning their successes. This often results in women not taking on new opportunities or climbing the corporate ladder because of internalised self-doubt; withholding their opinions over the fear of being judged or second-guessing their capabilities.
As custodians of culture, it is our responsibility as leaders to foster an organisational culture that nurtures women right from day one by resolving this self-perception sabotage. Companies should adopt various engagement strategies towards empowering their women employees and enhancing their employee experience. Some of the proven methods are as below:
Conversations that matter
The initial one-on-one check-in is an effective way to start a dialogue. But to foster sustainable conversations that go beyond the baseline, it is important to organise cyclical group engagement sessions across levels of the organisational network. The key here is to structure these sessions, without making them seem like another task to check off.
The outcome of these conversations should be change in perspectives and mindsets, building and strengthening the confidence of women and reinforcing the capabilities and strengths that they bring to the table.
An open conversation encourages women to speak up and not withhold their point of view. The objective here is to build a platform for women where they can express their views, assert their opinions, voice their concerns without the fear of being judged, thus creating an enabling environment for them.
Enabling growth through sponsorship and mentoring
Working through imposter syndrome means providing women with the support and confidence they need to excel in their roles. This may prove to be a task when they tend to believe that they are inadequate, underqualified, and undeserving.
An effective way to work around this is through the guidance and sponsorship of a leader. Future-fit leadership capabilities are built through institutionalised processes such as mentoring, coaching and feedback sessions. Mentorship programs led by senior leadership break down the notion of barriers of hierarchy by allowing them to work in close proximity to leaders who have successfully ascended the ladder in their respective roles.
In other cases, this could be adopting a growth mindset by seeking continuous feedback from the mentor based on progress made through the course of the program and beyond. A survey by KMPG showed that 72 per cent of women have looked to the advice of a mentor or trusted advisor when doubting their abilities to take on new roles. Therefore, as leaders, we need to actively champion and sponsor our employees, sans any gender bias or preference to provide an equal opportunity for career growth and success.
Shifting mindsets and driving behavioural change within the organisation
Biases when left unchecked, influence leaders’ behaviour and decisions, which contribute to feelings of imposter syndrome among women employees making them question their competencies and worth.
Routine workshops that demonstrate how to identify, acknowledge, and change one’s implicit biases among the entire workforce refine the way to engage with women employees. This can also create a more inclusive environment for women. In fact, these workshops can work as effectively for oneself as they would for groups of diverse people.
Working on unconscious biases developed over years requires consistent engagement to help change inherent notions and preconceptions.
Spotlighting success stories and showcasing gratitude
Another effective measure in reassuring women of their ability to achieve success is to celebrate their victory, no matter how small. Amplifying the small wins reassures them of their contributions but showcasing their growth journeys across the shop floor can inspire other women employees to also work towards achieving recognition.
In the long term, these exercises help create role models which undeniably also reflect the organisation’s ability to create an empowering environment for women.
As leaders we must appreciate the fact that imposter syndrome is borne by thoughts, not facts; and can therefore be challenged. To help women become the best versions of themselves and embrace the mindsets of achievers and go-getters, the responsibility lies with organisations to empower and cultivate a culture of credence among women.
Take charge of your careers
And to all the women reading this who may have experienced imposter syndrome during their career or otherwise, I say, ‘When you focus on all that you are, acknowledge all your achievements but more importantly, celebrate yourself – you will know you are enough!’.
It is time to shape, challenge and change our destiny and not let gender define our boundaries and limits. There will be occasions when you will be required to stand up for yourself and live to your potential. It may be a rough ride at times, but who said reaching the top of the mountain was an easy task anyways!
Believe in yourself, your capabilities and conviction and take the courage to walk on the path less trodden. Success is 100 per cent guaranteed!