Signs with the phrase “Be bold” could be seen during the Grace Hopper Celebration. It was the second conference Lu Capón attended to, and there was a marked difference with the previous one. This time, women encouraged each other. “Speak out” incited some art interventions. Women developers don’t always have the courage to speak for themselves nor make themselves heard in the world we live in today. That’s why this year the concept of “the impostor syndrome” was discussed again and again.
What is the Impostor Syndrome?
When Lu mentioned this in a conversation we had a few days ago, I had an idea of what she was referring to. I suspected it had to do with what women technologists constantly feel, a feeling we are gradually trying to reverse globally through an ideological battle.
The impostor syndrome is “that which doesn’t allow you to recognize your achievements,” explained Lu. It’s not taking the credit for the things you have achieved and constantly thinking too little of the work you do. “I have to admit I do that all the time,” confessed Lu. It was shocking. Immediately, countless situations appeared before my eyes where I saw myself in the same spot. Then I thought of all the people who had contributed to me, Lu and every other woman feeling that way. How many times did people underestimate our work compared to that of a man? How many times did people laugh about something we said, did or suggested? How many times were we denied the chance and space to participate? In this context, the impostor syndrome is an obvious consequence.
However, conditions are much better today than ten years ago. Vir Barros (a former employee at intive-FDV who also attended the Grace Hopper Celebration) shared with us a chart outlined by one of the keynote speakers, Padmasree Warrior, that remarks what women used to be or do, and what they can accomplished today:
They were newcomers >>> Now they are influencers
They were followers >>> Now they are movement starters
They mimic men to fit in >>> Now they are able to be themselves
They were society contributors >>> Now they are community builders
They didn’t have a strong voice >>> Now they are able to speak up and share their experiences
Today, in general, people in the industry have a different view about gender and don’t judge the quality of our work through their own lens. But preconceptions such as the ones mentioned above are still ingrained in our subconscious. “You often feel like a guest [in the industry],” reflects Lu. We still keep on minimizing our work.
A Way Out
The change has to come from within ourselves. These are a few key points that can help us change our mindset:
1) Take up new practices
Recently, Nahuel Zapata suggested we mentioned in the review meetings something from the past two weeks that made us proud. A practice like this can help people overcome internal hindrances, regardless of their gender identity. Another suggestion by Vir Barros was to conduct cross review meetings and get positive feedback from peers.
2) Drive inspiration from others
Finding inspiration can empower us to set more ambitious goals and believe that we can achieve things. At the Grace Hopper Celebration, for example, Lu met Rebecca Parsons, CEO of a company that, driven by energy saving efforts, designs toys that are able to power themselves. Some phrases left an impression on Lu: “Find the words you want to be and live that”, “More women need to reach positions of influence and decision-making, where they can bring about true change.”
3) Be alert
If we notice that someone isn’t participating due to the impostor syndrome, we have to do something about it. Likewise, we need to feel comfortable celebrating our achievements and those of others.
4) Be a source of influence
At the Grace Hopper Celebration, Lu participated in a personal growth workshop, which she felt was very useful. The first step towards becoming influencers is believing in ourselves. It takes a lot of personal work to set clear goals, assume responsibility of tasks and secure our position in specific scenarios. Pride is essential if we want to influence others.
We need to become friends with the idea of failure and the idea that we make mistakes. “We learn from our mistakes, we remember them and then we laugh about them,” says Vir.
6) Ask for feedback
Regarding this point, Vir highlights: “Many times, we keep pondering over things and tend to boycott ourselves. It’s crucial to put an end to that and ask the opinion of another person. It’s part of our personal development process and we have to ask for it.”
Today, the world lays out new opportunities for us. We have to be the first ones to believe —in the chances we get, in our limitless abilities. We, women technologists, will only find the key to work up our courage in ourselves.