If women are more likely to be under-estimated why would they think they are frauds? This question continues to puzzle me.

Imposter syndrome continues despite the reality that in many organisations women’s talents and skills are more likely to be under, rather than over-estimated. There’s plenty of evidence that women are more likely to be overlooked, despite having equal skills.

In just one of many studies women were seen to lack competence, experience and knowledge, even where blind evaluation showed this not to be the case.

In contexts where psychological safety is low and there is little genuine support for equality, women end up with negative thoughts. They feel unsafe and confused – not knowing what to do, how to feel, how to act – who they should be. They feel like they don’t fit in.

Ridiculously, women are internalising the idea that they are not competent or worthy when the fact is that they are competent and worthy, and more – the “problem” is there remain too many organisations and contexts where this just isn’t recognised.

Flow diagram with 8 boxes of ways to make women feel more valued

Here are eight ways your organisation can take the lead on making sure that women fit and feel valued:

  • Promote psychological safety
  • Stop expecting overwork
  • Balance competitiveness and collaboration – compete with true competitors and foster collaboration within and between teams
  • Frame performance as more than what gets done, it’s also about how it gets done
  • Challenge the framing of success as underpinned by archetypes such as the perfectionist, the superhero, the natural genius, the rugged individualist or the expert through which people project a sense of confidence that is beyond their means: surface the potential for and prevalence of imposterism, and encourage people to speak openly about it
  • Provide support, mentor and coach minorities in how to navigate hostile terrain
  • Mentor and coach majority members, especially those who don’t manage their engagement with others well – call them out
  • Expect leaders to model inclusion and equip them with the skills and approaches to create value from difference – it’s not easy and they need the right tools to be successful.

I appreciate that the word ‘fit’ is a little less than perfect – it’s not about fitting in. Helping women fit and to feel valued means making room for their full talent, which means the system needs to adapt and grow to give it room.

These tactics aren’t limited to shifting this problem – good leadership is good leadership after all – which is all to the better.

You can also read more about how to make sure an organisation is the right fit for you, in a previous blog article I wrote here.


Why not book a call with me to find out more about how my executive coaching can help increase your psychological flexibility, guarding you against both insidious thoughts of imposterism, as well as beating yourself up for having them.

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