The Spoof of Imposter Syndrome, And How This Pathology Has Been Gaslighting Women In The Workplace For Decades by Leslie Smith

Automatic Summary

Confronting Impostor Syndrome in Tech

If you've ever felt like an impostor in an industry dominated by cis white men, you're not alone. Many of us, particularly women, trans, and non-binary individuals, have battled with self-doubt and the sense that we aren't good enough. Adjustment is necessary, not just individually but systemically. It’s time to shift the narrative and empower ourselves to excel and thrive in the tech industry.

Introducing G Cities: Pioneering Gender Equality in Tech

Championing this shift is Leslie Smith, the National Director of G Cities. G Cities stands for gender equality in tech, and is dedicated to shifting power to women, trans, and non-binary individuals, particularly at the intersection of race and ethnicity. Ensuring the tech industry is an engine for equity and economic justice is one of our key aims.

Living Up to the Vision of Inclusive Tech

We firmly believe in the mantra, "you can't be what you can't see". To tackle this, G Cities focuses on lifting the stories of diverse technologists, discussing the experiences, successes and challenges encountered as they move through the tech economy. The aim is to eliminate any assumptions of not belonging and the subsequent Impostor Syndrome.

Impostor Syndrome: A Pervasive Challenge in Tech

Impostor Syndrome is defined as the act of doubting your abilities and feeling like a fraud at work. While its most common victims are women, it can still occur in men, albeit less frequently and intensely.

The repercussions are significant. Up to 75% of women executives have reportedly experienced feeling unworthy of their positions, affecting their confidence when negotiating salaries, pursuing projects or even elevating their voices in a room.

From Diagnosis to Systemic Problem

Impostor Syndrome is seen by some as a diagnosis, but we should instead shift focus to systemic issues like racism, classism, and workplace microaggressions that disproportionately affect women, trans, and non-binary individuals.

Disrupting the Impostor Syndrome Narrative

Now more than ever, it's crucial we shift away from the narrative that involuntarily makes us feel inadequate or out of place. We must redirect the focus to the stark economic case for greater diversity in tech and the myriad societal benefits it brings.

Advocating for Greater Representation

Greater gender representation in leadership and throughout the tech industry can reduce experiences of feeling alone or insufficient. The increased diversity of ideas and perspectives invariably aids in propelling performance and innovation.

Unveiling the Stories of Diverse Tech Leaders

Furthermore, sharing and promoting stories from women, trans, and non-binary tech leaders can empower aspiring technologists to see that they not only belong but can excel in tech industry. This also helps in creating a new norm - one in which gender, racial, and ethnic diversity is to be celebrated.

Systemic Fixes and Individual Empowerment

A transformation of the tech industry cannot be undertaken by affected individuals alone; both systems and individuals need to change. Here at G Cities, we encourage leaders, especially cis white males, to be better allies, accomplices and sponsors.

Recognizing and Calling Out Bias

Truth-telling and calling out bias when it's manifested in the system is another important step towards tackling impostor syndrome. Creating an environment which promotes individuals, not despite of, but because of their unique backgrounds and experiences, creates a strong foundation for a diverse and inclusive tech industry.

In conclusion, we all have a role to play in dispelling impostor syndrome and creating a tech industry that is truly diverse and inclusive. Remember, our self-doubt can hinder us, but our collective power can transform the tech industry into a beacon of equality and economic justice.

Video Transcription

Good morning chat from all over the country. It's nice to see you today. Um I'm excited to be with you this morning during this amazing conference. This is the week for conferences. We have women in tech global conference. We also have uh lesbians who tech.And so we've been toggling back and forth between both with some online and some in person event. So excited um to be with y'all this morning or this afternoon as the case may be in Lisbon. Hello, Raquel. Um My name is Leslie Smith and I'm the National Director of G Cities. Um Get city stands for gender equality in tech. And we're really focused on shifting power to women, trans and non binary people in tech um with a specific focus at the intersection of race and ethnicity, ensuring that our initiative is a comprehensive and inclusive initiative. And we're really working to ensure that the tech industry is an engine for and not against um equity and economic justice. So I know in that way, um we all share a similar goal. Um We use an adaptive and iterate uh iterative process um that takes different forms in each of our uh cities, we are currently activated in three US cities, Chicago DC and Miami.

We really um take our efforts to the local level because we know that's where um economies are built, that's where behaviors um can be shifted and innovation can occur. Um It allows us to be really agile and unique um and ultimately hopefully weaving the networks across each of those cities together, but also the networks in each of our three cities together, we focus on education, workforce and innovation as levers for that power and influence um opportunity for women, trans and non binary people.

Um And work really closely with local ecosystem actors um in all of our US cities and center, the technologists, we seek to lift up into this work. Um And so, you know, having spent my entire career really focused on lifting, underestimated populations into their power and influence.

Um I've learned AAA couple of things and one of those things is really centering for our work. Um And that is you can't be what you can't see. So a lot of our effort are designed to ensure that we're lifting up the stories of the technologies that are moving through the tech economy, what's working for them, what's not working for them, how our resources can prepare them for success or how some of the um environments uh and, or policies can impair them or prevent them from achieving um success.

And so knowing that we can't be what we can't see. And often the stories and successes and really learnings of other technologists um who look like us aren't sort of prevalent in um in social media or other forms of media channels. Um I think we, we tend to assume that we don't belong. And so because we don't see other people that look like us in positions of power influence and that can be as early as in our K through 12 education. Um as we're moving into our considerations for university. And then ultimately, as we're moving into industry, um we start to assume that we don't belong and it is out of, um I think that assumption that we don't belong comes as sort of pervasive challenge, um which is, which is sort of um bewilderingly entitled uh the impostor Syndrome.

And so, what I wanted to talk about today with all of you is really um the spoof of the impostor syndrome and how um I think the imposter syndrome is really gaslighting us and preventing us from being great. Um So I have some prepared uh comments here. I'll run through those. I see all of your um welcome notes in the chat to the extent you have a comment or a question. Um As I'm talking, please feel free to pop those in. I can see them sort of running as um I'm moving through my notes and I'll happily try to incorporate any thoughts that y'all have. Um but I'll start by uh um I'll start by talking about what imposter syndrome is. Um or, or how it's defined, uh which is really the act of doubting your abilities and feeling like a fraud at work. Um We know that this is most often a diagnose uh unofficial diagnosis. Uh by the way, given to women, the concept of the imposter syndrome was derived in the seventies by two psychologists who were um doing some research on high achieving women. It was originally called the imposter um phenomenon. And, and what they said is it stated that women who suffer from it, maintain a strong belief that they are not intelligent. In fact, they are convinced they have fooled anyone who thinks otherwise.

So it's this notion that in spite of our expertise, in spite of our position, in spite of our education, in spite of our experiences, we're not good enough. Um And anyone who thinks we are is sort of being fooled um by us. What's also interesting um is that this phenomenon occurs far less frequently in men and when it does, it is much, much less intense. So in other words, men don't sort of worry about this or think that they're in places they don't belong or less smart um than it, than uh than it appears to people around them. What's also really interesting. 75% of uh women executives have admitted to experiencing this, 75% of us think we're not as smart or not worthy of the places that we find ourselves. Um And that is really overwhelming uh in the ways we negotiate our salaries, pursue projects, ask for promotion, elevate our voices in rooms where they are most necessary um for innovation to occur for a, a diverse complex set of insights to show up in any room. So imagine that like in any room, you find yourself up to 75% of the women can be feeling this sort of sense of, of being an impostor.

The problem with this is um you know, even the fact that it's considered a legitimate diagnosis is really a problem because we know it's, it's um it is a huge and shocking number. Um Mostly, yeah, Marina, I got you. Um but when the room gets more full, hopefully, uh we'll, we'll, we'll know that we're in good company, right? Relative to this imposter syndrome. Um Like the syndrome itself, I think is, is really mostly problematic because it focuses more on the individual um a feeling or a, a sort of sense of a lack of worth instead of really um focusing on systemic racism, classism, xenophobia, workplace microaggressions. Um and, and other bias that exists in the workplace. It's, it's again, sort of the unique and complete burden of women um trans and non binary people to sort of carry their value in a room. And the concept of this imposter syndrome is, is unfairly sort of individualized instead of looking at the systems that perpetuate the advancement of predominantly cis white men who don't suffer from, from this. Um And the theme of this imposter syndrome, his takes on this like universal feeling of discomfort or second guessing or anxiety. Um And it's so typically uh pathologize especially for women. Um Catherine, we're gonna get to that.

Uh What's also interesting and we see this in venture capital outcomes is that men tend to be overconfident in their accomplishments and abilities. I recently gave a keynote about um A I and um some of the ways that artificial intelligence is really negatively impacting marginalized groups across society in particular, relative to the use of language. And men uh tend to use far more affirming uh confident and positive language.

Whereas uh women use far more limiting language, there's not a huge amount of research done on this. Um And even in that sort of expression of strength in language, we're seeing um resumes get sort of handled differently. Um interviews being handed out differently and job offers being made differently just as sort of one example of the way that shows up in retro capital outcomes where women sort of globally are still getting less than 3% of the total. Uh a lot of capital available in the venture capital streams. Um It is uh obviously, it's, it's related to a variety of things. Um sort of homophone and the behavior uh that ensures that we grant access and, or capital to people who look like us. But also is in the way language is used in pitch um uh pitching of ideas to venture capitalists where men are always very promoting and positive and act as if all of the things they say have or will happen. Whereas ma uh women are far more um limiting and ensuring that every risk that exists is sort of pointed out as a potential um failure. So that's just one way that this sort of um I I think urging to not oversell um or, or appear overly confident is showing up in this imposter syndrome. Um There's also this really interesting phenomenon where men are rewarded.

Um not only in getting the job or getting the capital, getting the project, getting the promotion, getting the raise. Um The uh the opposite is true when women um are are sort of advanced using an overly confident posture or language who are often at the beginning rewarded. But as they sort of lean forward through their work with this sort of um confidence or in the absence of an imposter syndrome, um they, they can switch from being really uh idolized or appreciated to appearing as a threat. Um And, and that was studied really well in Keisha Thom Thomas's pet to threat where um black women are often brought into spaces and initially were all received and paraded around as this sort of diverse icon. In the space. Um But they're seen as competition or a threat uh as soon as folks start to support them. Um And we're, and we're continuing to do this now. So, um I, I think paying attention to how we feel individually is important, but it's also like, how do we unpack and organize our systems differently clearly at gap. One of the things um we think is important is that we have more women represented in leadership. Earlier in the chat, I saw um someone uh someone ask about um or someone comment, I'm sorry about being the only woman in the room.

Um It's hard to bring this sort of um empathy and confidence and collegiality when um when there aren't just aren't as many women in the room. So one of our goals is just to increase the percentage of women across the um uh across the c suite. Um So I, I think there's a couple of things that we think is important. I I hit on this earlier but sort of um telling a new story, right? The time has come for us to recognize that we're doing this, that's being thrown at us that or adopting it and internalizing it. And unfortunately, often believing it and start to just sort of shed that as a trope that we're willing to advance or a belief that we're willing to accept as a, as a community of women. Um Yeah. Uh these comments are occasionally really just uh throwing me for a loop. Um Also just to acknowledge that we, we have been gas lit by this language um for a long, long, long, long time. And because we feel like uh we have to be twice as good to get half as much. Um the, the additional sort of burden of feeling as if we don't belong, um, slows us down.

I think what I would love to see us do is sort of shift the mindset from uh we don't belong and um and, and sort of begin really adopting the sort of business case for why we do belong. I think the civic activities of hiring more diverse and complex teams um falls away as soon as the moment that called us into it. Um uh fades away. Um And you know, the, the data science and math on this are real clear, um diverse teams perform better. Um And as such, we should continue making the economic case for that. Um It's also the only way we're gonna bring innovation that serves the entirety of society. So long as tech solutions are being built almost singularly by cis white men. Um they, the innovations that are created, there are going to sit in unique service to assist white men um who make up a smaller percentage of the population than they do the percentage of the overall tech workforce. So, um bringing that sort of balance will ensure that the innovation is not only sort of truly disruptive and bleeding edge, but also is uh empathetic and inclusive the needs of our entire society. Um Someone asked her earlier, um what can we do? I, I continue to think it's not necessarily about fixing the individuals but fixing the system in which they set by creating workplaces that are racial, ethnic and, and genderly uh are balanced from a gender perspective.

Um is really important and it's important that in those systems, we're not sort of othered or diminished or marginalized. Um We are running a program at Get Cities called Get Champions, which is really designed to educate and empower cis white men in positions of leadership across the tech economy to become better accomplices allies and sponsors. Because what's also true is that sort of the plight of the oppressed is not singularly solved by those of us who are oppressed by the system, the people in positions of power across the system also have to change. And our strategy relative to that is really to move first to the willing. Um which means if you're willing to be a, a better ally, accomplice, or sponsor and trans and non binary people in your workplace, um We are going to engage you and help uh help show you a path to creating a more belonging, welcoming and inclusive environment. Um I also think we have to let go of these outdated standards of professionalism um like uh never showing emotion at work, right? Uh wearing certain hairstyles, assuming that only women, trans and non binary people have family obligations and have to take care of the Children.

Um This whole notion of parental taxing that's occurring. I mean, we've just seen on blast through COVID. What happens when the the weight of the care for family and home is disproportionately placed on women. So, you know, I believe really strongly there are some policy solutions, you know, universal childcare and, and pre K um uh being one of them, universal health care um standards that exist across the globe that don't necessarily exist in the us that I think will, will better create balance across the um cis white male and women, trans and non binary um uh responsibilities.

Um I also think we have to continue to again tell the stories of um these women trans and non binary leaders so that we can see ourselves in another and we can know that we belong, we can know that we're smart enough. Um And then we have to be able to recognize these behaviors and call them out. Uh At gap, we call it truth telling. Um uh We just have to be able to sort of speak our truth um solutions for individuals I think is, is really like reminding ourselves that we have inherent value, setting boundaries to protect our, our sort of mental health and, and, and um space but often um that we're not alone in feeling this way.

I'm seeing sort of strong through, um, the, the chat, uh, fear of calling out the truth is that we get, um, blackballed, which is a very real fear and, and has to be sort of managed carefully. Um, uh, Claudia. I agree. Um, we have to believe that we, we belong there, but I also think that sort of oversimplifies, uh, the, the pressure that the systems are putting on us to adopt that behavior in the first place. And I think it's sort of uh a both and situation there. And then, um I, I said it earlier and I'll say it again, I think uh a broad-based set of uh uh policy solutions is really um is, is really important for us to continue to uh balance the weight of this inequity. Um As you can see, it's 1050 I could talk to you and, or chat with you in this chat box um for hours and hours and hours and hours. Um But I think we're only granted 20 minutes of time to spend together. Um And so thank you Claudia with uh with that. I want to uh thank you so much. It was amazing to spend time with you. Your comments in the chat, confirm for me that this is a real challenge for all of us and that the world will be a br a better, more productive and just place as each of you can, your path toward uh your power and influence in the tech economy.

Um And so I thank you ever so much for joining me. Uh People are asking for my linkedin handle, which I am trying to masterfully handle getting to you as we exit there. It is. Thank you for asking. It's also in my profile. Um feel free to link up with me and I look forward to working with each of you to advance the plight of uh women, trans and non binary people across the tech economy um in the future. Have a great day. Thank you.