Imposter Syndrome Equally Affects Men and Women in Tech

Imposter syndrome remains a persistent issue within the tech industry. No matter how sophisticated their skillset, or lengthy their experience, many tech pros believe they’re not suited for their roles.

Interviewing.io, which allows people to practice technical interviewing anonymously, has been collecting data about tech pros and imposter syndrome for quite some time. In the company’s setup, candidates self-rate their performance in technical interviews with software engineers, while engineers rate the candidates; Interviewing.io can compare the responses from both groups to see whether the candidates’ judgments differed substantially from their true performance.

What did the company discover? “Based on previous research, we hypothesized that impostor syndrome and a greater lack of belonging could result in female candidates penalizing their interview performance, but we didn’t find that pattern,” read the study breakdown. However, they did have different ideas from men regarding the requirements for success, such as risk-taking.

In other words, male and female engineers maintain similarly accurate views of their skills. While that’s good in the sense that gender disparity seems limited, imposter syndrome is nonetheless a pervasive factor for all tech pros. “Impostor syndrome appears to be the bleary-eyed monster that attacks across gender ability, and how good you are, or where you are, or how famous you are isn’t that important,” the breakdown added. “Seniority does help mitigate some of the pain, but impostor syndrome affects everyone, regardless of who they are or where they’re from.”

While Interviewing.io focused on interviews, the factors that govern tech pro performance (and their self-perceptions) extend to the daily workflow. Once integrated into a company, many workers continue to harbor feelings of inadequacy in comparison to their peers. Even if such emotions have no basis in fact, they can still impact performance, as well as tech pros’ willingness to fight for promotions and new opportunities.

But there are signs that imposter syndrome fades with time. Earlier this year, Stack Overflow released a study suggesting that tech pros aren’t as victimized by such thoughts once they’ve worked in tech for at least ten years. Around 40 percent of tech pros with zero years of experience (i.e., just starting out) agree with the phrase “I’m not as good at programming as most of my peers”; once they have more than a decade of work under their proverbial belt, however, that number drops to roughly 10 percent.

If imposter syndrome were truly pervasive within the tech industry, the percentage of veteran tech pros agreeing with that statement would likely remain high for decades into their collective careers. In the meantime, though, younger workers still wrestle with inadequacy; if companies want to mitigate that, Interview.io suggests that hiring managers and interviewers show a little more empathy (and provide “immediate post-interview feedback”).

If you find yourself gripped by imposter syndrome, there are cognitive processes that can help. As Debbie Chew, head of operations at Codementor.ioexplained in a Dice guest column, realizing that you’ve already accomplished quite a bit is an effective method for banishing those “imposter” thoughts. Mentors are always a huge help when it comes to staying positive about your abilities.

3 Responses to “Imposter Syndrome Equally Affects Men and Women in Tech”

  1. Michael Morin

    Wow. I thought it was just me! I’m 48, been in tech for just over 5 years, 27 years in retail industry. I’ve taken classes (Cisco mainly), built my own systems since I was 16, have excellent customer service skills and feedback, yet… some reason I’m always beating myself up because I don’t know “this”, or haven’t much experience in “that”. It’s technology, you’re always learning! Why I can’t convince myself that even though I don’t, won’t, and can’t know everything in tech support and network engineering, that is perfectly NORMAL in this industry, no one does! How to fix that feeling of self-doubt is beyond me for the time being.