Impostor syndrome exposed as a myth, says new Wundamail report

Women at Work research into impostor syndrome in the workplace reveals women lack negotiation skills, not self-belief.

A new Women at Work Report 2020 suggest the female experience of ‘impostor syndrome’ does not exist and it is poor negotiation skills that are holding them back in the workplace.

The Wundamail research asked 10,000 trained professionals in the US and UK about the challenges facing women at work. The result show men and women feel equally confident, and well-equipped for management positions, but the gap opens when it comes to ambition and practical negotiation skills.

“The prevailing narrative is that women suffer from “impostor syndrome”: a self-confidence disorder that ties in conveniently with the self-help, wellness and magazine industries,” says Wundamail.

What the numbers say

The Women at Work Report 2020 suggests otherwise. Men and women feel equally equipped for management positions and are equally confident advocating for themselves in a high-pressure work situation. Of those surveyed, 65% of men and 67% of women felt they “could easily do their manager’s job to a better standard than them”.

And yet, over 72% of men would “aspire to take on their manager’s role in the future”, compared to a meagre 47% of women. Only 62% of women reported that they would feel confident advocating for a raise, compared with 88% of men. And on average, men were twice as likely to talk finance in career conversations, whereas women preferred to focus discussion on qualitative factors such as skills, achievements or career progression.

Poor negotiation skills

Over 84% of women have previously feigned agreement with someone’s opinion “purely to avoid confrontation”. Though men and women may feel equally confident, women are twice less likely to provoke direct financial discussion or invite negotiation. Unequal representation in the workplace can therefore be remedied by endowing women with the practical skills they need to advocate, articulate, and most importantly, negotiate.

The initiative was launched to establish the barriers holding women back from reaching their full potential at work. The sample was representative by region, ethnic background, socio-economic status, gender, and inclusion of both high-income and low-income bracket workers.
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