Thursday, February 26, 2009

Women Think They Are Imposters

Women are more likely to think that their success is a fluke. Even if they have sustained success, they are more likely to think it is a fluke. When they fail at something, women are more likely to think it is due to their own failings. Women are more than twice as likely to get depressed over their failures - indeed, Susan Pinker calls the connection between women feeling like an imposter and getting depressed "the other problem with no name."

Men are more prone to overestimate their own skills. They are more likely to bluff, and take on responsibilities they are not really ready for. When they fail, they are likely to blame other people or outside conditions.

Reality is still reality, and offers a real bottom line of whether we succeed or not. However, men and women still draw different conclusions from the verdict that reality renders.

Men are more likely to see failures as investments from which they can learn, and to regard challenges ahead as something they can probably overcome. Because of the way women regard their own talents, even their own achievements, they are likely to aim lower than men. This has a cumulative effect. Imposter syndrome, as Pinker calls it, is one of the factors that means there are fewer women at the top of our power hierarchies than there are men.


Michael Kruse said...

I remember reading a an article (Time? Newsweek?) several years ago about the head coach of men's soccer team, I think, at the University of North Carolina. They had won several championships. Then he transitioned into coaching women's soccer. The article was about his experience in having to learn coaching all over again.

With the men, you had lots of egos and hot dogs, showing off and not willing to function as a team. He had to break them down by getting in their faces so he could rebuild them as a team.

When he started coaching the women he would get in the face of player and the other team members would rally to the player and against the coach. Instead of breaking players down to function as a team he found he had to build the women up into a team.

I think there are parallels here with Pinker describes in how (generally) men and women assess their own abilities.

JMott said...

I can certainly qualify Kruse's comment. I coach soccer at an all-boys school, so I have minimal dealings with adolescent girls. I have also trained male goalkeepers for several years with a company out of KY.

I helped out with the Centre girls camp this past summer and it was a huge culture shock. After quickly finding that my usual motivators weren't working, I mimicked the head clinician (a very talented coach of both men and women) and realized the difference. When I got on them about their mistakes, the withdrew within themselves rather than bounce back as I expected...when I gave them chances to build to success, they thrived.