I worked for Burger King for about 18 months during and after high school. I quit at the end of the summer to go away to college. When I returned to my hometown following my freshman year of college, in need of a summer job, I didn't even think of returning to Burger King. Why? I was terrified I hadn't been a good enough employee and they wouldn't want me back.
Retrospectively, that was a ridiculous fear. I'd never been late, never gotten in trouble, my drawer was always accurate, I was trained to both open and close, and I could work all the stations. I was an ideal employee.
But, instead, I went and got a job at Kmart. One day, my former Burger King manager came through my checkout line. "I didn't know you were home! Why didn't you come back to work for me?"
"You would hire me?" I asked, shocked.
"Of course! Can you come back?"
I did, and ended up staying there the rest of the summer, helping to open a new location.
What made me fear I wasn't good enough to return to a job that I knew how to do?
Leonora Risse,Vice-Chancellor's Postdoctoral Research Fellow, RMIT University, did a study and has a theory. She found that "women have the equivalent of up to one-and-a-half year's extra education, and nearly a full year's extra workforce experience, than what is required for their job."
Women, not only face bias at work, but they believe themselves to be less capable than men believe themselves to be.
Women may not apply for a job until they are 111 percent (Risse's number) sure they are capable of doing the job. This isn't to say that men will just apply to anything they are remotely qualified for--they tend to be 104 percent qualified.
But, that extra 11 percent isn't without cost. If you wait to apply for the next job until you're at 111 percent of the qualifications of that job, you're limiting your career climbing abilities. Because salaries tend to build upon salaries, getting a promotion six months later than a similarly qualified man can result in being years behind by the end of your career.
These very real results of imposter syndrome can make things appear to be the results of discrimination when it was really a result of deciding that we're not good enough.
For businesses, one way you can help reduce the chances of this happening is to make job descriptions clear and based on reality rather than dreams. Additionally, when you're looking at succession planning, don't just rely on people to apply for jobs. Consider approaching people--male and female who are qualified for the promotions.
Most of all, women, don't rely just on your own opinion of your qualifications and take a leap of faith and apply.