High-performing women executives, even those on the cusp of a C-Suite gig, have high levels of self-doubt, inadequacy and imposter syndrome, according to a new report from tax, audit and advisory firm KPMG.
The survey, Advancing the Future of Women in Business: A KPMG Women’s Leadership Summit Report, polled 750 executive women who are one or two career steps away from the C-suite and have participated in the KPMG Women’s Leadership Summit. Key findings include:
• Three-fourths, 75%, of executive women report having personally experienced imposter syndrome at certain points in their career;
• More than eight of 10, 85%, believe imposter syndrome is commonly experienced by women in Corporate America;
• Nearly three-fourths, 74%, of the executive women respondents believe their male counterparts do not experience feelings of self-doubt as much as female leaders do; and
• A strong majority, 81%, believe they put more pressure on themselves not to fail than men do.
The women leaders in the survey represent a range of industries, according to a statement. “It's important to realize that most women experience similar doubts at some point in our careers," KPMG U.S. Deputy Chair and COO Laura Newinski says in the statement. “Our contribution as leaders is pivotal. Together, we have the opportunity to build corporate environments that foster a sense of belonging and lessen the experience of imposter syndrome for women in our workplaces.”
Expectations — real and perceived — play a big role in the respondents’ answers. For example, nearly half, 47%, of executive women say their feelings of self-doubt result from never expecting to reach the level of success they’ve achieved. In addition, due to a variety of external factors, 56% have been afraid they won't live up to expectations or that people around them will not believe they are as capable as expected.