The battle for women in carving out a space in tech leadership has been hard fought. There is a danger however that even the women who manage to achieve leadership level then start to question whether they should be there.Understanding leadership for women in tech is a conversation that can’t take place without men. In the same way that men have a part to play as allies to bring about change, equally, allyship plays an important part in combating imposter syndrome.
What is imposter syndrome?
Imposter syndrome is an inability to believe that what you have achieved is a direct result of your skills or efforts. It’s those moments of doubt when your experience discomfort and start to question whether you’re qualified or competent. It is especially prevalent if an individual looks around and assumes everyone knows what they are doing or that they do not look like them. Our confidence at work and sense of belonging are intrinsically tied up with inclusivity.
Therefore if you are a woman in a male-dominated world then it is easy to see how this can creep in as you look around at your colleagues.
Imposter syndrome has also been categorised into subgroups:
The natural genius
There are two groups within this where women in tech are particularly vulnerable, the superwoman and the soloist.
If you are already part of an underrepresented group, there can be an internal dialogue taking place that tells you if you ask for help you will reveal your inadequacy. As a woman in tech, you are already isolated so it is easy to see how this type of imposter syndrome can creep in. The other potentially prevalent type of imposter syndrome is the superwoman. Despite huge strides in recent years and shifts, traditional household responsibilities such as cleaning and managing children are carried out by women.
38% of women who work full-time and have a partner say they do most of the housework and childcare – just 9% of working men with partners say the same
It is easy to see how women slip into the role of superwoman but don’t feel they are able to verbalise this additional responsibility in the workplace.
How allyship can help
By its very nature technology is an ever-changing field which can lead to frequent retraining thus creating insecurity. Women may also have been in a role for a period or be part of a Returnship programme which can increase these feelings. Workplace culture, a leadership team that is aware of these issues and men in tech understanding they have an important part to play in bringing about change can all be positive for women in tech.
Once men in tech recognise their own privilege, they can start to engage in conversations, raise awareness and look for opportunities to become allies. There are practical ways this can take place for example passing up projects in favour of female colleagues and volunteering to do perceived lower tasks opening opportunities for women to take on higher profile projects thus paving the way for their success.