KPMG Study Finds 75% Of Female Executives Across Industries Have Experienced Imposter Syndrome In Their Careers

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KPMG LLP (PRNewsfoto/KPMG LLP)
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A majority of executive women across a range of industries identified having experienced feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt, or imposter syndrome, at certain points in their careers and say they believe it is commonly experienced by women in corporate America, according to a new study released today by KPMG LLP, the U.S. audit, tax, and advisory firm.

Advancing the Future of Women in Business: A KPMG Women’s Leadership Summit Report” polled 750 high-performing executive women who are one or two career steps away from the C-suite and have participated in the KPMG Women’s Leadership Summit.

“KPMG has a long-standing commitment to the advancement, development and empowerment of women, which extends beyond our organization and into the broader marketplace,” said KPMG U.S. Chair and CEO Paul Knopp. “It is important for organizations to gain a more thorough understanding of the specific issues women may face as they advance in their careers and as they move toward the C-suite. We hope the thought-provoking findings and solutions in this study help leaders everywhere as we work to further advance inclusion and diversity.”

Key findings of the study include:

  • Seventy-five percent of executive women report having personally experienced imposter syndrome at certain points in their career.
  • Eighty-five percent believe imposter syndrome is commonly experienced by women in corporate America.
  • Seventy-four percent of executive women believe that their male counterparts do not experience feelings of self-doubt as much as female leaders do.
  • Eighty-one percent believe they put more pressure on themselves not to fail than men do.

Overcoming imposter syndrome
“It’s important to realize that most women experience similar doubts at some point in our careers,” said Laura Newinski, KPMG U.S. Deputy Chair and Chief Operating Officer. “Our contribution as leaders is pivotal. Together, we have the opportunity to build corporate environments that foster a sense of belonging and lessen the experience of imposter syndrome for women in our workplaces.”

The female executives included in the in-depth survey represent a range of industries across more than 150 of the world’s leading organizations and were nominated by their CEOs to participate in the Summit. 

Additional findings:

  • Nearly half (47%) of executive women say that their feelings of self-doubt result from never expecting to reach the level of success they have achieved.
  • When asked which dynamics within the workplace were most valuable to help reduce feelings of imposter syndrome, 47% said having a supportive performance manager and 29% said feeling valued and being rewarded fairly.
  • Due to a variety of external factors, 56% have been afraid that they won’t live up to expectations or that people around them will not believe they are as capable as expected.
  • To overcome imposter syndrome, 72% of executive women looked to the advice of a mentor or trusted advisor when doubting their abilities to take on new roles.
  • Fifty-four percent of executive women agreed that the more successful they become, the lonelier it gets at the top because they enter new peer groups. However, 32% of women identified with imposter syndrome because they did not know others in a similar place to them either personally or professionally.

For more information or to download the full report, please visit: KPMG.com/WomensLeadership. Join and follow the conversation on @KPMGInspire on Twitter.