Whether on the golf course, in the office, or as you pursue your hobbies, the self-doubt that comes with Imposter Syndrome knows no boundaries. Women especially are susceptible to experiencing Imposter Syndrome at some point in their lives.

Imposter Syndrome is a persistent inability to believe one’s success is deserved or achieved by working hard and possessing distinct skills and capabilities but by other means such as luck or being at the right place at the right time. It is often accompanied with feelings of self-doubt, fear of success or failure, or self-sabotage.

As a part of their efforts to grow the number of women in executive roles, KPMG has commissioned a research study called “Advancing the Future of Women in Business: A KPMG Women’s Leadership Summit Report”. In it, they reveal the details of Imposter Syndrome executive women experience and the advice these women have to ultimately conquer those anxieties and feel confident in their roles.

Over 750 past attendees of the 2015-2019 KPMG Women’s Leadership Summits participated in the survey. These women hold positions just below the C-suite from Fortune 1000 companies.

What Causes Imposter Syndrome?

According to the study, “Imposter Syndromes can stem from a variety of factors, including personal, familial and social experiences, stereotypes and labels, corporate culture and workforce dynamics.”

Basically, no one is immune. The study found that 75% of women who hold executive positions have felt Imposter Syndrome at some point in their careers. It isn’t something some people are born with and others aren’t. Rather, it is a learned behavior. And though overcoming the insecurities associated with Imposter Syndrome can be difficult, if a behavior can be learned, it can be unlearned.

But before we can learn how to beat Imposter Syndrome, we have to first understand the common causes.

75% of Executive Women Have Experienced Imposter Syndrome

Corporate Cultural Expectations

When a position has traditionally been held by people who do not look like you, the feeling of not fitting the stereotype can lead people toward second-guessing their own abilities.

The issue can also go the other way. Many women do know their worth to the company and feel confident they are fully qualified for the job. What they are not confident about is how others perceive their work performance due to not looking like the typical executive stereotype. This leads to women putting unnecessary pressure on themselves to work harder than their peers in order to be seen as equal.

54% of Executive Women Believe Others will Doubt Their Abilities

Breaking Gender Stereotypes

While Imposter Syndrome isn’t unique to women, 81% of those surveyed felt that they as women put more pressure on themselves to succeed than men.

One participant suggested that men tend not to experience Imposter Syndrome in the same way women do because of the assumptions of what a leader looks like based on the traditional gender norms many children grow up with. Men have seen other men in leadership roles their entire lives and have many options for people to look up to or seek advice from in their field. Women, however, are raised differently. Many women have few leadership role models, or in some circumstances, must be their own role model.

81% of Executive Women Believe They Feel More Pressure to Succeed Than Men

Big Changes

Imposter Syndrome often comes along when women start pushing themselves out of their comfort zones. It can happen while transitioning into a new role, taking on more responsibilities, or moving to a new company.

Sudden good changes made the surveyed women feel uncertain if they belonged in that position because they never anticipated reaching that level of success.

The good news, though, is that for 66% of women who experienced Imposter Syndrome caused by taking on new leadership roles, the worries did not hold them back. It actually could be seen as a motivator, a sign that they are growing in their careers.

57% of Executive Women Experience Doubt When Taking On New Leadership Roles

Not Knowing the Ropes

Environmental factors having the impact that they do, it is little wonder that one of the biggest causes of Imposter Syndrome can be attributed to being unfamiliar with the usual forays of the workplace.

Women who were the first in their families to pursue a career as an executive, women from different cultures, and others who have not had the same opportunities to learn what corporate culture was like can experience Imposter Syndrome not so much as an attack on their abilities but as a worry that they will not fit in with their peer group.