THE IMPOSTOR PHENOMENON IN SUCCESSFUL CAREER WOMEN

MADELINE MASS HIRSCHFELD, Fordham University

Abstract

This study investigated the effects of self-perception, perception of parental career orientation, tolerance of ambiguity, and attribution of causality for career success on the impostor phenomenon. The impostor phenomenon was defined as an inability of successful career women to perceive themselves as successful and was assessed using a modified version of the Expressed Acceptance of Self Scale. Women who experience the impostor phenomenon believe that they are not as intelligent or capable as others believe them to be, and that their career success is undeserved and possibly fleeting. Their desire to maintain and perpetuate their success, and their uncertainty as to how to do so, results in anxiety known as the imposter phenomenon, which is debilitating and results in lowered career potential.^ Eighty successful career women functioning in traditionally masculine careers such as businesss, engineering, law, and psychology comprised the sample. On the average, they were 36 years of age, functioned in their present position for seven years, and earned $38,000 annually.^ Results of this study indicated that discrepancy between self-perception and perception of the ideal in one's field, perception of parental career orientation for their daughters, and attribution of responsibility for career success were variables which predicted the imposter phenomenon. These findings suggest that successful career women who suffer from the impostor phenomenon have difficulty connecting various internal qualities to their achievements. As compared to nonimposters, they are more likely to perceive themselves as not possessing the traits and behaviors needed for career success. They do not perceive their parents as having socialized them to possess nontraditionally feminine traits or to pursue nontraditionally feminine careers. In addition, they are more likely not to attribute their career success primarily to ability. It appears that imposters have not identified and internalized those parts of themselves that have been responsible for their career achievements. The cause-effect relationship between what they have done and their success remains unclear to them. Thus, to diminish the negative effects of the impostor phenomenon, it is necessary to help women to recognize cause and effect relationships. When business and educational sectors, and women themselves devise plans to assist women in overcoming obstacles, such as the impostor phenomenon, then women and their larger society will benefit from women's increased ability to realize their career potentials.^

Subject Area

Women's Studies

Recommended Citation

HIRSCHFELD, MADELINE MASS, "THE IMPOSTOR PHENOMENON IN SUCCESSFUL CAREER WOMEN" (1982). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI8223604.
http://fordham.bepress.com/dissertations/AAI8223604

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