Re-cap: Impostorism- or is it?

Our last live Twitter discussion was on whether- and when- the impostor syndrome is the cause of career setbacks, or the indirect outcome of bias, either explicit or implicit.

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Emily started off with a definition of The Impostor Syndrome and that is is common. Impostor syndrome is a human feature:


One reason impostorism may be rampant in Academia is:

However the crux of our discussion was this:

Impostorism can be brought on by external bias, not an internally driven sense that one doesn’t measure up – which is a form of gaslighting (for more, check out Yashir Ali’s awesome post on gaslighting and women). Yet our original article was about the world of tech. Does this also happen in STEM more broadly?

Here’s one story:

This and other posts during our discussion demonstrated it does happen in STEM, and it is just as easy to attribute feelings to the impostor syndrome when it wasn’t. At all. As our original article discussed, outcomes of both can feel the same – i.e., that you don’t belong or can’t hack it in a field. Therefore, it can be difficult to differentiate between things people say and do that are external and about their bias, and your personal struggle with confidence.

Yes. At it’s most fundamental, impostorism based on gaslighting clearly impacts underrepresented minority (URM) groups – and shows us that bias masquerading as imposterism is external and true imposter syndrome is internal. This difference is critical for how we deal with both. Combating imposter syndrome is about personal growth, reflection, and confidence – and internally disrupting the story it tells us:

Melanie Nelson also shared her Chronicle Viate Article balancing confidence and competence and when to focus on each of these, with an eye towards how bias interferes with these:

Yet addressing bias that can act as imposterism is about external, communal work – about learning to recognize how bias manifests, calling it out, and working towards more inclusive communities.

It was clear how important it is to realize that something blamed on an individual may well be the product of a biased environment. We’re all affected by the context we are in, many times invisibly. So next time you feel like an impostor, take a minute to really examine where that feeling is coming from. And for those of use that aren’t saddled with biases against us, it’s important to strive for inclusivity and avoid inducing impostorism in a colleague, student, or mentee.


Links shared:

On Confidence:


Thanks for everybody that joined us, and see you next time!







2 thoughts on “Re-cap: Impostorism- or is it?

  1. […] This rhetoric and behavior digs deeper than the support of scientific research. In Diversity Journal Club discussions, we’ve talked about the importance of inclusion for women in science, (also here), for minorities (also here), and for men too (also here). We’ve talked about the impact of bias on peer review, teach recommendations, even the accolades we give out and how we view ourselves. […]


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