Why imposter syndrome might be holding back women in pharmacy


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By Deborah Evans
Managing director of Pharmacy Complete

13 Jul 2018

There are many things that women in pharmacy can do to level the playing field and secure leadership positions, says Deborah Evans

 

Much is being discussed about what is causing the lack of representation of women at senior levels of management and on boards within pharmacy, and rightly so.

 

Diversity at the top table is critical to get better decision-making and performance from leadership teams, as well as being representative of the sector. With the current challenges in community pharmacy and healthcare, having outstanding leaders has never been more important.

 

Suggested reasons for our current position is that women may experience not only being disadvantaged in the workplace but holding themselves back by their own sense of being not good enough. This ‘imposter syndrome’, is not unique to women and can affect men too (although it affects more women), and it has been estimated that 70% of individuals will experience signs and symptoms of the condition at least once in their life.

 

The consequences of this include negotiating poorer remuneration packages, not going for promotions and keeping quiet when we know we can add value. While not a mental disorder, it can be accompanied by stress, anxiety and depression together with lack of confidence and the feeling of not being good enough, despite evidence to the contrary.

 

It can be difficult to spot. We look at someone who is outwardly confident, a high achiever and looks comfortable in their role however inwardly they may have massive self-doubt and be working extra hard to ensure they stay ahead. Despite external evidence of competence, those experiencing this phenomenon remain convinced that they are frauds and do not deserve all they have achieved. They attribute their success to luck, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent than they perceive themselves to be.

 

If you recognise yourself as an imposter here are some tips that may help:

 

  1. Identify what is shaking your confidence – do some problem-solving to get to what it is that you find most difficult. For example, is it speaking up and fearing saying something stupid, or perhaps leading a project that might fail? Write it down and make it specific
  2. Talk to someone unconnected to you at work and articulate your fears. Simply speaking them out loud helps you realise they are irrational and someone you trust will listen and remind you of your strengths
  3. Remind yourself of all your achievements – write down some of your proudest moments, keep a ‘brag’ file of positive comments you have received and key achievements
  4. Do a strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) analysis on yourself, focussing on your strengths and how you capitalise on these
  5. Write your biography using positive language; ask for feedback from someone you admire to enhance it further
  6. Stop comparing yourself with others
  7. Take risks – write down all the things you would do if you were not afraid. Then do them!
  8. Become a mentor for someone else. Helping others will make you realise how much you have to offer. Find a mentor
  9. Talk to others and join a forum such as the Women in Pharmacy Facebook group
  10. Identify what makes you feel strong and empowered. Research positive and assertive body language. Be the person you want to be.

 

Deborah Evans is managing director of Pharmacy Complete, a training and consultancy company working with pharmacy www.pharmacycomplete.org. She is founder of the Facebook Group Women in Pharmacy with over 7000 members.

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