Impostor Syndrome is the feeling that you aren’t really qualified for the work you are doing and will be discovered as a fraud. Many women, People of Color, QUILTBAG persons, and others from marginalized groups experience Impostor Syndrome, especially when they’ve (we've) been socialized to value others' opinions of work above their (our) own. People developing new skills are also prime sufferers, and this is something we geeks are familiar with! Want help overcoming your Impostor Syndrome and decreasing its incidence in your community? This workshop is for you.
Impostor Syndrome Workshop
Executive Director, Inclusion Through Innovation
Format of the Workshop
25 minute introduction
Split into groups for
– 15 minute “take a compliment” exercise
– 15 minute values exercise
– 15 minute exercise on expertise
(short discussion after each exercise)
Impostor Syndrome: psychological
phenomenon in which people can't internalize
their own accomplishments, claiming they're just
Intersectional: overlapping/intersecting social
identities (visible & invisible) relating to social
systems of oppression & discrimination.
Kyriarchy: social system keeping intersecting
dominations & oppressions in place; comes from
“kyrios” (master) & “archein” (rule).
Cisgender: a person's gender is the same as
the gender a person were assigned at birth
Trans* or Transgender: a person's gender is
different than that assigned at birth (may or may
not be a binary gender identity)
Non-binary or Genderqueer: “male” or “female”
doesn't describe a person's gender accurately
Okay, so ….
What do all these vocab words have to do with
Let's get through the downers ...
Have you received this message?
“I'm sorry, we've discovered that there's been a
mistake. We didn't intend to accept your short
story for publication, or your application for the
open position at this company, or your
membership to our professional organization...”
Have you received this message?
“We have reviewed your promotion packet, and
you're not actually qualified for the position you
have right now.”
Success is totally an iceberg.
[Photo Credit: “Iceberg of Success,” Sylvia Duckworth, CC 2.0]
Impostor Syndrome is so common...
“I can't do this. I haven't done enough experiments.
I haven't got enough data. I can't write the paper
well enough yet or give the talk.”
Cherry Murray, Dean of Harvard University's
School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.
“In every job I’ve had in the last 25 years, I’ve been
the first woman to hold my position—head of
computer science and Dean of Science at the
University of British Columbia, Dean of Engineering
at Princeton, and now President of Harvey Mudd
College. As my career progressed, so did the
intensity of my feelings of failure.”
Maria Klawe, Harvey Mudd President
Additional Negative Messages
“It's so brave of you to go to [insert event here]!”
“Well, I see we have our token [insert identity
descriptors here] on the panel.”
“Are you here with your
Everyone Raise Your Hand
[Photo Credit: “Raising Hands to the Sky at Rally to Close the Gaps,” Fibonacci Blue, CC]
Why has this culture developed?
Kyriarchy rife in society.
We're not “supposed” to be good at this.
Public reveal of projects causes public
Comparing our worst to others' best.
What are the results?
We have lower satisfaction in life.
We are less effective collaborators.
We ask for less money, fewer promotions,
and less challenges.
We apply for new jobs and try new things
far less often than others do.
How do we get inoculated?
Talk with trusted friends.
Work explicitly on this issue (like now!).
Watch your words.
Document your accomplishments. Own it!
[Photo Credit: “Compare,” Sylvia Duckworth, CC 2.0]
How do we help others?
Be encouraging, in general!
Make mentorship a first class activity, not
unpaid emotional labor.
Teach others, and be open to learning.
Document how others can contribute.
Critique with kindness.
(Break into groups of about six people.)
Take a Compliment
[Photo Credit: “Untitled,” Sumana Harihareswara, CC-by-SA]
[Photo Credit:”Values,” Roy Berwyn, CC]
Expertise in Our Fields
[Photo Credit: “Expert,” GotCredit, CC-by-SA]