The Oil and Gas industry has fewer women than any other, but to no one’s surprise, the women leaders in the trade are nothing short of phenomenal. Fifty of these women were recognized at The National Diversity Council’s 50 Most Powerful Women in Oil and Gas Awards Breakfast. Katherine Hargis, an award winner and one of three chosen speakers, shared the struggles and successes of her journey in leadership. She spoke of a little-known, yet common experience of women in corporate America that resonated with many women in the room; Imposter Syndrome.
In an industry where women make up only 14.5 percent of the workforce, it is not shocking that one of the Top 50 women in Oil and Gas sometimes feels like a poser. High-achieving women throughout Corporate America struggle with Imposter Syndrome, despite their vast amount of success, talent and skills. Hargis said, upon receiving the email informing her of her award, she thought it had to have been a mistake. Women who are affected by Imposter Syndrome think other people overestimate them. They often refuse to celebrate their accomplishments. They convince themselves that they are frauds and become anxious by the thought of being ‘found out’ by their peers. Like Hargis, women affected by Imposter Syndrome are hard workers. Many, feeling incompetent, will set high standards for themselves to combat their fear of being counterfeit. Women with the condition are plagued with self-doubt.
Research shows Imposter Syndrome more often affects women than their male counterparts. Cosmopolitan shared in a online article this is due, in part, to sexist stereotyping in which women in the workplace are aware they are more closely scrutinized than their male colleagues. In examining the gender wage gap, studies show women are less likely than men to apply for jobs unless they meet all of the criteria for the position. In this instance, Imposter Syndrome shows itself in the form of a self-assurance gap.
According to Dr. Valerie Young, an expert on the subject, “Research shows that women and girls are more likely to internalize failure, mistakes, and criticism, and boys and men are more apt to externalize these things,” Young says. “In other words when a woman makes a mistake or does not perform well, for instance failing a test, she blames herself seeing it as proof of her supposed ineptness at a subject or task.”
If you feel like you are going to be ‘found out’, that your successes are due to luck, if you downplay your accomplishments, have a hard time receiving praise and accolades, that you are an over worker to a fault, you are not alone. You can combat these tendencies by adopting counter methods. These counter methods are, but not limited to, powerful body language, letting go of perfectionism, challenging your doubt with ‘proof’ of your abilities and skills, owning your successes by accepting praise, surrounding yourself with a healthy, positive, support system and practicing mindfulness. Remember, everyone will experience self-doubt in life. As Hargis put it, your stumbles will prepare you for your success.