Impostor Phenomenon and women in STEM: is it a barrier to entry, retention and advancement? Contribute to the research...

Despite a raft of advances designed to afford women the same opportunities as men over the past century or so, gender imbalances still exist in work, society and the home.

This is particularly evident in the STEM sector where women are highly underrepresented in technical and managerial roles. The reason for this is multifaceted and difficult to resolve; cultural, social, educational and psychological reasons interplay to deliver a ‘perfect storm’ of under-representation across the STEM workplace.

Are you a woman working in a STEM occupation? Take a quick test* to see if you’ve experienced the Impostor Phenomenon.

One area of investigation that needs more work is the psychological underpinnings of confidence and self efficacy of women working in STEM occupations. While there is considerable work being undertaken to get women into the STEM workplace, there is still scope to improve what we know about the retention and advancement of women once in the job.

The picture of what prevents women from achieving at all levels is dominated by external factors such as access to training, barriers inherent in recruitment and selection and overt and implicit bias in workplace systems. However, little work has been undertaken in regard to internal experiences of the Impostor Phenomenon (IP) in women; the unconscious self limiting feelings of being inadequate, unqualified and fraudulent despite evidence to the contrary.

I'm undertaking research to identify the prevalence of IP in women in STEM. This research will inform further work to better address gender imbalances and to broaden the pool of talent available to the STEM sector more widely.

If you're a woman and work in a STEM occupation (particularly if you're working in a Data Centre) I'd like to hear from you.


The Impostor Phenomenon was first theorised in the late seventies by clinical psychologists Dr Pauline R Clance and Dr Suzanne A Imes. It leads to an internal feeling of ‘not being good enough’ and undeserving of success. Individuals may be unable to accept that their achievements are of their own making and instead overstate the place of luck or other external factors as a reason for success. It can cause crushing doubt, stress and a sense of being in a role ‘fraudulently’ which, at some point, will be found out.

There are many underpinning reasons as to why people, and women in particular, have these experiences. However, the lack of recognition of one’s own capacities to achieve and enjoy success is at the heart of this research.

How prevalent is IP and does it prevent women from recognising and being comfortable with their own achievements in the STEM workplace? If so, what can we do about it? How can it be diminished to encourage more women to enter, stay and move into higher level managerial and leadership roles in the sector? How does the workplace need to respond to escape 'feeding' IP experiences?

Contact me at if you'd like more information or to be more involved in the study. Please forward to any women you may know who may be interested in taking the test and being part of the research.

(*The Clance IP Scale has been reproduced with permission. The tool cannot be used without express permission from Dr Pauline R Clance. The test is anonymous and subscribes to the research ethics requirements of Anglia Ruskin University.)

Created By
Terri Simpkin

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