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Australia Local Chapter assists with university study on Impostor Phenomenon

Are you a manager? Have you ever felt like an impostor, as if you didn’t deserve your career success? Do you feel like you’re faking it in your managerial role? Take part in this important research.

For anyone who has spent any time working in or around the digital infrastructure sector it is evident that equity, diversity and inclusion (and let us not forget the all-important, but often forgotten ‘belonging’ piece here) is a key issue of interest.

Indeed, the ongoing work that Inga Woudstra (iMasons Inclusion Program Manager), has been doing for some years, highlights that while advances have been made to inclusive practices and cultures in the sector, there is more work to be done

While the business case for a diverse workforce has been made repeatedly in this and in other industries, the ‘box-ticking’ approach to diversity is a key barrier to inclusion.  That is, recruiting people from non-traditional backgrounds is one thing, enabling a culture that supports belonging is a different, and somewhat more complex matter altogether.

Having conducted global research into women in STEM with a particular interest in women in data centres, I found the experience of the impostor phenomenon was a profound and widespread issue of concern. Often misnamed the ‘imposter syndrome’,  the experience is a real and sometimes debilitating barrier to employment, career advancement and engagement at work. Characterised by a feeling of intellectual fraudulence and a fear of being found out as a fraud at any moment, the experience goes beyond usual self-doubt to something more akin to ongoing, sometimes perpetual ‘fight or flight’ response. 

While often associated with women, the experience is not specific to gender; indeed, anyone who feels that they do not belong in a workplace can experience imposter feelings and exhibit behaviours such as self-handicapping and thought patterns such as catastrophising. The experience can be associated with neurodiversity, cultural background, socio-economic status and age. Where there is a sense of difference and a lack of belonging in a workplace, there is fertile ground for the impostor phenomenon to grow. 

Anyone who knows this feeling (and there are many people who do, sadly), will know it presents as a personal challenge, but it is also a workplace/workforce matter of concern too. People experiencing this phenomenon are less likely to bring their best self to work or to be innovative and fully engaged. And at a time when psychological safety has never been more important, the fact that the impostor experience can put people at risk of stress, burnout and anxiety in response to workplace systems and structures, the issues is a clear and present concern for organisations too. 

To date, much of the research has focused on the individual prevalence of impostor phenomenon but a bright and curious honours student, Erin Buttermore, my colleague Dr Saeed Loghman and I are undertaking research into this experience from a workplace perspective. This work precedes a PhD study into how impostor phenomenon is experienced specifically in the Digital Infrastructure sector. 

We are looking for people to take an anonymous questionnaire to investigate the relationship between perceived organisational support, psychological capital, and the impostor phenomenon in managers. The insights gained from this study will benefit not only management researchers, but also managers and organisations, including within the digital infrastructure sector. This study has been approved by the University of Tasmania Human Research Ethics Committee.

We invite you to take part and in doing so, you will be contributing to a study that promises to deliver profound insights into this widespread experience.

If you would like to participate, click here to be taken to the anonymous questionnaire.

Dr Terri Simpkin
MBA Director & Associate Professor, University of Tasmania 

Terri Simpkin is an industry experienced academic, educator, researcher, international public speaker, and an authority on the impostor phenomenon. 

Terri is actively engaged in research into the underrepresentation of women in STEM and the social barriers to girls in STEM education.

She is currently MBA Director & Associate Professor at the University of Tasmania. Her current research interest has developed into Braver Stronger Smarter – a suite of initiatives designed to address personal and structural issues leading to workplace inequity and the under-representation of women in leadership, STEM occupations and other sectors such as finance.

Terri was recognized in as one of the Infrastructure Masons IM 100 award recipients. 

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