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Diversity and Inclusion High Profile Returners Lifestyle And Wellbeing Mums Returning To Work Professional Mums Work Journeys

Imposter Syndrome – Fix Bias, Not Women

Imposter Syndrome. We have all heard of it. If you are a high-achieving female you may well think you have it. If you don’t, you will know many others that do.  But, what if Imposter Syndrome isn’t real? What if it is a resulting factor of society and biology combined?

The 66% of women ‘suffering’ with Imposter Syndrome (according to a study by Access Commercial Finance) may be shouting “no, it’s definitely real”. Bare with me…

You can loosely define imposter syndrome as doubting your abilities and feeling like a fraud. It disproportionately affects high-achieving people, who find it difficult to accept their accomplishments. Many question whether they’re deserving of accolades.

Where did Imposter Syndrome come from?

Psychologists Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes developed the concept. Originally termed “imposter phenomenon,” in their 1978 founding study. The study focused on 150 high-achieving women. They recorded that “despite outstanding academic and professional accomplishments, women who experience the imposter phenomenon persist in believing that they are really not bright and have fooled anyone who thinks otherwise.”

This study, despite it being based on just 150 participants, spurred decades of development programmes and initiatives. These were all in an effort to address imposter syndrome in women. Many high-profile women have shared they suffer with IS. Examples include – former First Lady Michelle Obama and Tennis champion Serena William. If you want to find out how to “overcome” Imposter Syndrome, a quick Google search shows up more than 5 million results.

What if Women Aren’t The Problem?

What’s less well explored, is why imposter syndrome exists in the first place. The advent came with the study mentioned above in 1978, but what about before then? Did it just not happen? Or has something changed in society or with “sufferers” that has resulted in this pandemic?

A theory I subscribe to is that workplace systems and simple biology may have a lot to answer for. Currently, women are almost blamed for having Imposter Syndrome. They are told they are suffering and need to overcome it. They are ‘diagnosed’ with a condition. So, it must be down to them.

Ruchika Tulshyan and Jodi-Ann Burey explored this further. Their published findings, in a Harvard Business Review article, share “imposter syndrome puts the blame on individuals, without accounting for the historical and cultural contexts that are foundational to how it manifests… Imposter syndrome directs our view toward fixing women at work instead of fixing the places where women work.”

Maybe You Are Just Normal!

Feeling uncomfortable, second-guessing yourself and mild anxiety are all normal. These feelings are more prevalent in women at work. Men of course experience similar feelings. However, men are often selected based on capability rather than history. The opposite is true for women. It stands to reason if you haven’t done a certain thing before suddenly you feel out of your depth. As a man’s potential is validated over time, feelings of doubt are reduced. Add on the fact men are easily able to find role models in the workplace. Mentors who are like them and are less inclined to question their competence. It therefore makes sense that these very normal feelings have a lesser impact and are less likely to be labelled.

Women experience the opposite. We question if we have the credentials we need to achieve. We hear “women often suffer with Imposter Syndrome”. In fact career development programmes aimed at women almost always have a session on “overcoming imposter syndrome”. It can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

When women demonstrate strength, ambition, and resilience, they are often described as “aggressive” or “overly assertive”. The idea of imposter syndrome doesn’t take account of workplace dynamics and suggests women need to deal with the “issue”instead.

Men Are From Mars…

It is a biological fact women are programmed to be more risk averse. They are more likely to be perfectionists. Jessica Baker, a Business Psychologist, says we are wired to not step too far into the unknown – left from when we needed fear to protect us, and our young. Also, there are a disproportionate number of men in leadership roles. This means falsely equating confidence with certain traits that are most often demonstrated by male leaders. We then interpret these traits as competence and leadership. Thus, if we don’t have these certain male dominant traits, we question ourselves, decide we lack confidence and diagnose Imposter Syndrome.

Fixing Bias and Society – Not Women

The “fix women’s imposter syndrome” narrative has persisted, decade after decade. Perhaps instead workplaces should focus on creating a culture for women that addresses bias.

In the mid-1990s Clance, the ‘founder’ of Imposter Syndrome suggested the impostor phenomenon could also be attributed as far back as the way girls are communicated with as children. People would compliment girls on being “pretty” and “chatty”. Whilst “Brave” and “intelligent” used for boys. These concepts can define us. It is therefore easier to put success down to luck or being liked. Not individual success.

All this said, I do not totally dismiss Imposter Syndrome as “a thing”. But, I do wonder if

  • we address healthy, normal self-doubt via supportive work cultures,
  • seeing more women in positions of leadership and
  • not using vague feedback like “you need to better develop your leadership qualities”.

we may be in a better place.

Is Imposter Syndrome is a stand-alone syndrome? Or is it a result of complex societal, biological and workplace factors? Either way, it still affects us.

Then how do we deal with it? Ask yourself “where is the evidence that you are doing a terrible job or making bad decisions?”. The fear is irrational. Your current experience of it is often far worse than the negative outcome you are anticipating.

Rebecca Amin is a Career Coach helping parents, find their paths back to career happiness. Find Rebecca via her website www.rebeccaamincoaching.co.uk; Facebook Page and Facebook Group, Career Happy Mums.

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Diversity and Inclusion

Inspirational Women who made an Impact

Inspirational Women

In honour and recognition of International Women’s Day 2021, we will be looking at some powerful and inspirational women; historical figures and current trail blazers. The Find Your Flex team have put forward their candidates for women who deserve recognition.

Historical Figures

Rosa Parks
(Image Credit: thoughtco.com/William Philpott/Getty Images)

Rosa Parks: one of the primary figures that cultivated change. a young woman who faced extreme racial discrimination. And refused to vacate her seat on the bus for a white person. Parks would become one of the most prominent figures in history. Rosa’s arrest would lead to the abolishment of bus segregation laws. Furthermore, Rosa’s defiance was even more frowned upon due the fact that she was a woman.

Elizabeth Garret Anderson: a woman who punched the glass ceiling until it shattered. Anderson’s dream was to become a doctor, something unheard of in Britain during those days. This didn’t stop her from going down every avenue to get there. Anderson became the first practicing female doctor in British history. Anderson would achieve another first, after retirement she became mayor of Aldeburgh. The first woman in British history to become a mayor. Anderson was a staunch supporter of the suffragette movement. Anderson’s refusal to back down helped to break the mould of what women could achieve.

Entertainers

Dolly Parton Continues to Be the Hero of 2020
(Image Credit: Vanity Fair/Ian Gavan/Getty Images)

Dolly Parton: a legend of country music. She used irony, stereotypes and her looks to get her foot in the door. Dolly used irony to her advantage. While portraying a stylish, busty blonde, her music was attacking stereotypes. Challenging double-standards, calling out how poorly men can treat women and get away with it.

Audrey Hepburn – Hepburn was a notable actress in the 1950s onwards. As a child she survived Nazi occupied Holland. She became a globally recognised actress. She did a lot for charity. Hepburn travelled to third world countries to meet underprivileged people and raise awareness.

Entrepreneurs

Image
(Image Credit: Twitter @TheBodyShop)

Anita Roddick: an inspiring business woman and entrepreneur who founded The Body Shop. She was an understated figure of female empowerment. Roddick was also a notable activist and philanthropist, involved in many charities. She founded Children on the Edge (COTE). Aiding overcrowded conditions in orphanages dealing with catastrophic issues. Upon her death she reportedly donated the entirety of her fortune to charity. Anita Roddick was pinnacle of what it mean to be a great business woman.

Bethenny Frankel: business woman and philanthropist, best known for her time on The Real Housewives of New York City. Bethenny became a fan favourite for her blunt, snarky, charismatic attitude. Frankel launched the first ever low-calorie cocktail line branded Skinnygirl Cocktails. Her experiences would lead her to found Bstrong. A charity providing financial support for women that feel trapped in abusive situations and people effected by natural disasters. Someone who has suffered abuse, became a successful business woman and given back to people less fortunate than herself.

Kelly Hoppen – Hoppen is a notable business woman how began a career as an interior designer at the young age of 16. She built her empire and would go on to design home, yachts and private jets for celebrities and high-end clients. She would be a ‘Dragon’ on the show Dragons Den. Helping to support small businesses through investing and mentoring.

Athletes

Serena Williams played in the Yarra Valley Classic as a tuneup to the Australian Open.
(Image Credit: The New York Times/David Gray/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images)

Serena Williams is arguably the greatest tennis player of all time. Williams has broken down race and gender barriers through her passion and outspoken persona. She has done a lot to empower women. Inspiring them to push themselves in athletic professions and shedding light on the significant gender pay gap in most sports. Serena is a trail blazer in shattering the idea of a what a woman is “supposed to look like”. Owing to her immense popularity as a female role model, in any list of inspirational women, Serena Williams stands out.

Tanni Grey-Thompson: a British athlete and politician. Born with spina bifida, Grey-Thompson would go on to become one of the most accomplished disabled athletes in the UK. She won 16 Paralympic medals, 11 of which were gold. Grey-Thompson returned to her academic routes, becoming an Independent Crossbench Peer in the House of Lords. She became an inspiration to women everywhere aswell as people suffering with disabilities.

Ronda Rousey: Olympian, Mixed Martial Artist and Wrestler, largely responsible for changing the gender imbalance in combat sports. Rousey became the first American to win an Olympic medal in judo. Rousey participated in the first UFC female fight in history. On retiring she was the first female inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame. She would feature in the first ever women’s main event in Wrestlemania history. She has spoken about how she suffered with body image as a child. Many have credited Ronda as being one of the driving forces for change in women receiving equal recognition to men.

Activists

Malala Yousafzai discusses depression and Dr. Seuss with Teen Vogue
(Image Credit: The New York Post/Getty Images)

Malala Yousafzai: was a child when she began speaking out for women’s rights in Pakistan. She gave interviews to both the BBC and the New York Times. At the age of 15 Malala was shot in the head by a Taliban gunman. She would go on to make a full recovery. The attack resulted in the United Nations denouncing and condemning the Taliban. She continued to speak out and raise awareness. After her recovery, she studied at Oxford University. Earning a degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economy. In 2014 she became the youngest ever recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. There are many inspirational women throughout history who deserve recognition. Malala Yousafzai will go down as one of the greatest activists in history.

Rose McGowan: Former actress and current activist. One of the “Silence Breakers” to step forward and accuse Weinstein of rape. This event would lead to the MeToo movement. A massive global movement that encouraged victims of sexual abuse to step forward. Rose would continue to bring awareness to the corruption of Hollywood. McGowan became an outspoken activist for LGBT and women’s rights. Without dispute, Rose McGowan is the pinnacle of what brave, inspirational women are.

There are many more inspirational women, past and present. These inspirational women have made a difference either by actively seeking change or achieving it through their personal success. We honour all women on International Women’s Day 2021. Which strong, brave, clever, tenacious woman do you take inspiration from?

“I am a boss. Not a girl boss. I am an entrepreneur. Not a female entrepreneur. I am a business owner. Not a woman in business. The sooner we drop gender from these phrases the better. Maybe we should start calling people ‘Male Entrepreneurs’ and ‘Boy Bosses’ to see how stupid it sounds.” -Amelia Sordell, LinkedIn Coach.
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Diversity and Inclusion Productivity & Flexibility

Flexible Working, Diversity And Inclusion

Will 2021 Be It’s Year?

It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life, for me, and I’m feeling….

Well, I’m not sure what I’m feeling if I’m honest. It may be 2021 but in many ways we have hit rock bottom. As I write this, we have the highest number of Covid cases the UK has seen, school closures, talk of hospitals being at breaking point, not to mention Brexit and what this truly means for the economy.

But what has this all got to do with Diversity & Inclusion and Flexible Working I hear you ask? 

Now we are living in a world we would never have imagined 12 months ago. Now is the time flex for all MUST be embraced.  It is the only way to ensure nobody (employees and organisations themselves) are not left behind.

D&I and Flexibility cannot be exclusive of one another

There are a plethora of reasons an employee may need to work flexibly – all of which boil down to Diversity & Inclusion. Parental responsibility of course is the most common. More often than not this has sat, in the majority of traditional families, in the mothers lap. But Covid has opened the doors – and eyes of fathers – that the option for flexibility should also be available to them. But it shouldn’t just be about the parents – what about those with other caring responsibilities; physical or mental health conditions; the desire to avoid unproductive and exhausting long commutes, or for a better work-life balance; those with outside interests … Until flex for all is embraced, there will continue to be a stigma attached to requests from mothers.

Breaking flex barriers

Before Covid, many organisations simply stated “It won’t work”, or other such “convincing” reasons for not embracing flexible working. To me, this really means “we haven’t ever done it, we’re scared everyone will want it (would that be such a terrible thing?) and we will lose control. We are not sure we fully trust our employees and we are assuming the world will fall apart”.

As a Coach, one thing I know – that has been proven multiple times over the last nine months – is often assumptions do not equate to reality. The “it just wouldn’t work” mantra was shattered as soon as, almost the entire world, were forced to work remotely. So surely now, shouldn’t we have arrived at a place where Flexibility (or what I like to think of as Smart Working) is the norm, not a special request?

This does not mean everyone working remotely 100% of the time. It means being agile – to be face-to-face (when needed and able again) and remote. Being available for core hours, but not a rigid working day. In fact, I would go as far as to say implementing enforced hybrid working to remove any possible imbalance or resulting two-tier (we are all sick of tiers let’s face it!) system or presenteeism culture. To get the work done to the expected level – to achieve organisational goals in a way that can accommodate life.

There May Be Trouble Ahead

I do have a concern however. Covid-related “flexibility” has been forced, was never intended for the long-term. Happening overnight it was unlikely part of organisational strategy. It has been accompanied by the extreme stress of the pandemic and home-schooling. It hasn’t provided flexibility to embrace Diversity & Inclusion.

Organisations now have a real opportunity to take what has been learnt. Rolling key takeaways into their long term D&I and flexibility strategy. If not, we are in danger of the negatives tipping the balance to apparently demonstrate “we were right – it doesn’t work”. People feel isolated. We have Zoom fatigue. Work and home-life boundaries have been blurred. Well-being is therefore being negatively impacted. It would be dangerous to correlate these negative outcomes with “flex working”. Flexible working it isn’t. It is a sticking plaster to keep businesses and employees afloat and hanging by a thread.

Take the best of a bad situation

So now is the time to understand what has worked.

  • What balance do we need?
  • Can organisations and employees both gain benefits from a real flex for all strategy?
  • What do we want it to look like when we are out of the other side (which we will be eventually)?

Too often D&I, Coaching investment and other such projects are shelved during tough times as they are not “priority”. But D&I and Flex should now be of key focus so the models that will truly work. The best of BC (Before Covid) and AC (you guessed it – after Covid!) can be embraced – for everyone.

Until it is modelled for everyone, parents – particularly mums – will still be the special case. It is sadly a fact that women, due to the flexible requirements so often falling to them, have been the biggest casualties of Covid. A study by IFS found 47% of mothers were more likely to have lost their jobs and felt the need to quit than fathers. Mums are so often viewed as “the part-timer”. The one feeling anxious about how and when to have that conversation. Worrying about any repercussions. When we are all treated equally none of that ever needs to happen. And for those that are not parents, who also need, or simply want, flexibility, they will no longer feel resentful. Retention and engagement would almost definitely increase along with productivity. As Boston Consulting Group found, a direct positive impact to the bottom line due to innovation from diverse leadership.

Let the leaders lead with flexible working, diversity and inclusion

Of course this cannot just be about writing a policy and hoping for the best. D&I must be engrained in Flexibility and bred into an organisations culture and leadership behaviour. 2021 truly feels like the right time for D&I to be the phoenix rising from the ashes. It most definitely is not the time for it to die as a result of the pandemic, along with so many other Covid casualties.

Rebecca Amin is a Career Coach helping parents feeling stuck in their careers, find their paths back to career happiness. Find her via her website www.rebeccaamincoaching.co.uk; Facebook Page and Facebook Group, Career Happy Mums. 

You may also want to read about ‘The Gender Imapct of Covid-19’

Or ‘Flexible Working, What Exactly Does It Mean?’