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November 15, 2019
by Tina Arnoldi

Women Entrepreneurs Experience Imposter Syndrome More Than Men

November 15, 2019 08:08 by Tina Arnoldi  [About the Author]

Although the number of women engaging in entrepreneurship continues to grow, there are still a significant number of women experiencing imposter syndrome.  A study in Business Horizons noted that entrepreneurship has been “associated with masculine notions of success“ which is why women may question their ability to truly be entrepreneurs more so than men. Experts weighed in on why this continues to impact women  

Robyn Flint, MS believes our culture has a lot to do with women experiencing imposter syndrome. “Too often women are trying to prove that they are just as capable as men,” said Flint, “feeling that they have a score to settle. When they actually do achieve their goals, they can’t believe that they succeeded.“

Daisy Jing, CEO and founder of Banish, agrees that our culture has had a negative influence. “We grew up with the idea that we compete with one another instead of helping each other out. Women had pageants and instead of encouraging one another, we are used to having people judge us. Whenever we feel defeated or unaccepted, there's this syndrome where we don't feel empowered or have faith within. We let other people validate our worth.”

Jandra Sutton, a writer, entrepreneur, and host of The Wildest Podcast believes imposter syndrome impacts everyone at some point and people need to learn how to operate in spite of it. “If we don't, the implications for women in the workplace are significant,” said Sutton. “ We hold ourselves back from asking for more, refrain from taking jumps in our career, and stress ourselves out over the need to provide more value.”  

It can also become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Dr. Carla Marie Manly, author of Joy from Fear, notes if  “a woman does not feel valued and respected, she may indeed feel like a fraud. Imposter syndrome affects a woman’s ability to see herself as worthy in the present and also—if not addressed—will affect her ability to achieve optimal success in the future.”

Dr. Lindsay Jernigan, sees a need for cultural changes within the workplace. “Despite progress made towards opening the workforce to women, women in business are still negatively impacted by both external and internal factors related to gender. There are obvious and concrete external factors that make it harder for women to feel valued and succeed, such as pay inequality, schedules that are not family-friendly, poor maternity leave policies, and sexist hiring biases. And then there are the "softer" external factors -- judgments and prejudices against women that impact how men see women in the workplace (assertiveness is called "bossiness” and hard work is called "brown-nosing").” 

Unless some workplaces change, the imposter syndrome for women will only exacerbate. Jerrigan continues, “The very skills that may be valued in a male employee and help him rise through the ranks may be critiqued in a female employee and undercut her success. Even more duplicitously, these external sexist messages lead to internalized sexism -- negative self-talk and self-identity that is the direct outgrowth of cultural sexism and criticism.” 

And like with any struggle in life, we need to be okay talking about it. Sutton encourages people to “connect with a mentor or a group of fellow entrepreneurs, ask questions, and don't be afraid to be honest.” It took a conversation with another female entrepreneur about rates, experience level, and opportunities for her to realize just how much she had been undercutting myself. She said “As a result, I was able to better position myself as an expert in my field, increase my prices, and stop stressing about whether or not I was good enough. Remember: 'good enough' is a perception, and the first person you need to convince is yourself.”

About the Author

Tina Arnoldi

Tina Arnoldi, MA is a business consultant and freelance writer in Charleston SC. She has reviewed books for PsychCentral and has a portfolio on Contently. You can learn more about her and connect at TinaArnoldi.com


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