Women's Woes: Impostor Syndrome, Minority Status & FinTech

Monica Eaton-Cardone

May 22, 2017

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No, women aren't the only ones battling the "impostor syndrome" and the perceptual challenges of being a minority (by gender) in the workplace. And they're surely not the only ones grappling with the disruptive rise of FinTech, but these three topics are clearly entwined.

Understanding Impostor Syndrome
Impostor syndrome was first recognized in 1978 as an explanation for self-doubt and feelings of inadequacy experienced by people who were otherwise successful. For victims, their emotions and thoughts fail to align with their skills, intellect, and capabilities.

Initially, it was believed women were most affected. Research eventually showed a majority of people (70%) will experience impostor syndrome at some point in life, often during transitional times. People with impostor syndrome are generally very high achieving. Yet, some inner voice argues that they are undeserving of their positions in the workplace. They fear they'll be "found out" and exposed as frauds.

Even though they've earned their position via merit.

Minority Status
Because of the vast gender imbalance in FinTech, women who work within the industry are particularly susceptible to impostor syndrome. It makes women feel like they don't belong in the FinTech world-which is statistically believable since, globally, only 8% of directors in FinTech are women. Here are some of the more shocking statistics of tech's gender divide, provided by Innotribe:

  • There are just 28 female CFOs in Fortune 500 companies; that's just 6%
  • In the EU, only 4.95% of the top executives of the 50 FinTech companies are women; that's 11 out of 222-and only 1 is a CEO
  • At the top 50 banks in the US, there are only 2 female CEOs (there were 5 in 2011)

  • Obviously, these numbers are dreadful. They surely contribute to the impostor syndrome epidemic. But the strain incurred from this faulty thinking can (and must) be overcome, so women can achieve higher levels of success-both for themselves, and for the next generation of women entering the FinTech industry.

    Fortunately, most of the women suffering from this syndrome are also very productive, and research suggests that bouts with impostor syndrome does not impede their long-term drive to perform.

    Evaluating Statistics to Initiate Change
    The best way to combat the negative effects of imposter syndrome is with positive statistics. When women understand how successful they can be at the highest levels in the FinTech industry, perhaps they will be more inclined to strive for them.

    And then, their company's profitability will skyrocket.
    There is research to suggest that FinTech organizations founded by women-or inclusive of women in leadership roles-are doing better financially, and out-innovate, those run by males. Specifically:

  • Fortune discovered that companies led by women are producing 3 times the gains attributed to S&P 500 companies led by men.
  • The Wall Street Journal revealed that companies with women in 22% (or more) of their senior executive positions will see a significant financial windfall.

  • These statistics highlight the benefits of women in leadership roles, and just as importantly, they demonstrate the financial rewards of gender diversity. When given a chance, women are significant contributors to a company's bottom line...but alas, many are afraid to pursue these key positions.

    That must change.

    Warding Off Imposter Syndrome
    Impostor syndrome clouds one's ability to see and seize new opportunities. But there are methods to change that negative mentality, ward-off the impostor syndrome symptomology, and embrace your future with confidence.

    Learn for a Lifetime
    The key to real success is a teachable spirit. Understanding that there is always more to learn-and that nobody has all the answers-will strip imposter syndrome of its ability to make victims feel incapable or unworthy. New knowledge-and new contributions from talented, creative female executives-will optimize innovation and bring us closer to the ultimate end-goal: making life better for those served by the FinTech marketplace.

    Think Markets Not Products
    Most people in FinTech and other tech-based industries strive to create transformational products, because they want to change the world. They work hard and dream big. But if they focused more on their home market-if they could tap into the brilliance and ingenuity offered by female programmers, coders, researchers, and executives-who knows how many new breakthroughs would occur? How many female versions of Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, or Elon Musk have been dissuaded from pursuing a career in tech, because they don't believe they belong in the industry?

    It's a shame.

    Stepping away from the tired, negative stereotypes about gender, and creating an environment of workplace inclusion, is a critical first step. By utilizing the homegrown talent in their market, the pipeline of transformational new products will flourish.

    Initiate Success
    Women who allow their minority status-or impostor syndrome-to keep them stifled will not achieve success. Instead, it must come from within. Success is accessible to those who initiate it, who seek out fresh ways to excel in business, finance and technology. Women must find the courage to follow their dreams.

    When they do, trust me: They'll transform the world.

    Women's Minority Status in FinTech doesn't have to Bolster Impostor Syndrome
    Gender diversity is certainly problematic in the FinTech sector, and in most other STEM-related industries. However, identifying ways out from under the weight of impostor syndrome will enable more women to rise to the forefront of tech leadership. In so doing, areas of stagnation will be eradicated and FinTech companies will reap the financial and technological gains associated with having women in upper-level positions.

    And that would truly be transformational!

    Opinions expressed by the author are not necessarily those of WITI.

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