Trying to Empower Female Evaluators To Stop Feeling Like Impostors by Sara Vaca

Dear AEA365 readers,

I’m Sara Vaca, independent consultant and frequent Saturday contributor.

I come today with my third post about Impostor Syndrome (doubting your accomplishments and feeling a constant fear of being exposed as a “fraud”), after the first one where I shared my experience with it and the second one asking for readers to share theirs (survey now closed). Here are the results:

Lessons Learned: All the people who answered had felt it: no one who answered the survey (184 people – thank you!) said it had never happened to them. And around 10% indicated they had rarely felt it or had stopped feeling it. I am rather impressed, however, because 52% of the people who answered feel like this often and 38% feel it sometimes. The vast majority of survey respondents (86%) were women. Wow. It seems like a pretty common invisible pandemic. And the 18 men that answered (14%) shared similar feelings.

What seems to trigger Imposter Syndrome is primarily doing something we have no previous experience in (69%), starting new contracts (47%), working with new people (40%) and speaking in public (37%). Other structural criteria also induced this feeling (14%) and being younger (37%) or older (13%) also played a role.

Hot Tips: As Vidhya Shanker shared in one of the many comments on the first post, this is most probably not something we spontaneously feel, but something “internalized from structural criteria and norms about what competence, leadership and authority look like, feel like and sound like, and therefore we should shift the responsibility to the field and the collective culture”. And it is not only a gender issue, but also race and class are involved.

Lessons Learned: There have been plenty of discussions around these subjects (race, equity and gender) lately (in which I still feel like a toddler). So I can only invite ourselves to think about what the field as a whole, and AEA in particular (?), could do about it. And there is more in the survey answers that what I had time to process, so I may come back with more reflections.

Hot Tips: In the meantime, people shared that factors that helped them stop feeling insecure are experience (48%), positive feedback (41%), knowing the people you work with (25%) and better self-esteem (16%).

And these are tips shared that I found most interesting to try to minimize the feeling at the individual level: more love, thinking “Not now!” and Jara Dean-Coffey’s Spotify playlist to get in the “zone” when facilitating. 🙂

Rad Resources:

Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org . aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

2 thoughts on “Trying to Empower Female Evaluators To Stop Feeling Like Impostors by Sara Vaca”

  1. I’ve really enjoyed your posts on this topic, thank you for bringing attention to it. I think Vidhya was spot on in her analysis on the previous post. Impostor syndrome is an inevitable consequence of our socialization into patriarchy, capitalism, and white supremacy. In my mind, empowerment implies that it is the responsibility of the individual to overcome. We need to normalize new ways of being in relation to one another, to release our ideas around individualism, meritocracy, and productivity.

  2. Hey Sara!
    Like the way you wrapped up the series with reflections and resources to affirm and strengthen. Also happy to know the playlist you find useful. Confess the past few weeks I have done more SM and less music and need to change that trend so this post was a great reminder for me of the power of music.

    Be well

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