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Imposter Syndrome Affects up to 65% of Workforce

— June 1, 2021

The majority of working professionals have experienced imposter syndrome but it’s not often talked about.

InnovateMR, a market research firm located in Calabasas, California, has released a new study suggesting that “65% of professionals today suffer from Imposter Syndrome.”  Medical News Today describes symptoms of this phenomenon as having “a sense of being a fraud; fear of being discovered; [and] difficulty internalizing success.”  The study also found that young women are disproportionately affected.  According to KPMG’s Advancing the Future of Women in Business Summit Report, “Imposter Syndrome is one of the least talked about, yet most prevalent issues facing professionals today.”

Other InnovateMR findings included, “75% of female executives surveyed reported experiencing Imposter Syndrome.; 53% of female professionals between the ages of 25-34 are currently experiencing Imposter Syndrome.; 85% of women have not spoken to someone at work about their struggles, for fear of being seen as weak.; Less than 5% of employers directly address Imposter Syndrome with their staff.; 50% of Imposter Syndrome sufferers are working moms, but still have a higher focus on work than personal life due to feelings of guilt.”

Imposter Syndrome Affects up to 65% of Workforce
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

Results of a previous 2014 study published in the Journal of Business and Psychology suggests “impostor phenomenon (IP) refers to the intense feelings of intellectual fraudulence, often experienced by high-achieving individuals.”  Researchers suggest individuals who suffer from it tend to stay in their positions because they do not believe that they can do better.

InnovateMR’s Vice President of Marketing and Communications, Brittany Nicols, said, “Yep, just like Abraham Lincoln, Walt Disney, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Mark Zuckerberg, I don’t have a college degree.  However, I don’t have billions of dollars in my bank account to free myself from the voices of insecurity and self-doubt wracking my brain.  These feelings formed a pattern which would continue.  It wasn’t until very recently that I was able to put a name to what I felt: Imposter Syndrome.”

Jeanette Ward, Chief Operating Officer of Texas Mutual Insurance Company and a board member of the Insurance Industry Charitable Foundation, also battled feeling this way for years.  She believes, “The modern workforce must be inclusive, and it should challenge the stigmas and prejudices that make it difficult for people to advance their careers.  Employees should feel like they are in a welcoming environment where they not only belong but can thrive.”

Of her own journey, Ward said, “Inclusion in the workplace holds a special place for me.  I became a mother at 17, and battled imposter syndrome for years.  Those suffering from imposter syndrome doubt themselves and often feel they do not deserve to be where they are.  I hid my authentic self from the workplace until I finally came to understand it was not only okay to have a different background than my colleagues – it was important.  People with diverse backgrounds, with different life and cultural experiences, bring unique talents and experiences to the workplace that can contribute to a more inspired and empowered workforce, as well as to company profitability and overall success.”

It’s time for employers to address ‘the elephant in the room’ and help employees feel safe and included so the whole system functions optimally.


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