KPMG study finds 75% of female executives across industries have experienced imposter syndrome in their careers

NEW YORK, October 7 – A majority of executive women across a range of industries identified having experienced feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt, or imposter syndrome, at certain points in their careers and say they believe it is commonly experienced by women in corporate America, according to a new study released today by KPMG LLP, the U.S. audit, tax, and advisory firm.

Advancing the Future of Women in Business: A KPMG Women’s Leadership Summit Report” polled 750 high-performing executive women who are one or two career steps away from the C-suite and have participated in the KPMG Women’s Leadership Summit.

“KPMG has a long-standing commitment to the advancement, development and empowerment of women, which extends beyond our organization and into the broader marketplace,” said KPMG U.S. Chair and CEO Paul Knopp. “It is important for organizations to gain a more thorough understanding of the specific issues women may face as they advance in their careers and as they move toward the C-suite. We hope the thought-provoking findings and solutions in this study help leaders everywhere as we work to further advance inclusion and diversity.”

Advancing the future of women in business
The 2020 KPMG Women's Leadership Summit Report


Key findings of the study include:

  • Seventy-five percent of executive women report having personally experienced imposter syndrome at certain points in their career.
  • Eighty-five percent believe imposter syndrome is commonly experienced by women in corporate America. 
  • Seventy-four percent of executive women believe that their male counterparts do not experience feelings of self-doubt as much as female leaders do. 
  • Eighty-one percent believe they put more pressure on themselves not to fail than men do.

Overcoming imposter syndrome

“It’s important to realize that most women experience similar doubts at some point in our careers,” said Laura Newinski, KPMG U.S. Deputy Chair and Chief Operating Officer. “Our contribution as leaders is pivotal. Together, we have the opportunity to build corporate environments that foster a sense of belonging and lessen the experience of imposter syndrome for women in our workplaces.”

The female executives included in the in-depth survey represent a range of industries across more than 150 of the world’s leading organizations and were nominated by their CEOs to participate in the Summit. 

Additional findings:

  • Nearly half (47%) of executive women say that their feelings of self-doubt result from never expecting to reach the level of success they have achieved.
  • When asked which dynamics within the workplace were most valuable to help reduce feelings of imposter syndrome, 47% said having a supportive performance manager and 29% said feeling valued and being rewarded fairly.
  • Due to a variety of external factors, 56% have been afraid that they won’t live up to expectations or that people around them will not believe they are as capable as expected.
  • To overcome imposter syndrome, 72% of executive women looked to the advice of a mentor or trusted advisor when doubting their abilities to take on new roles.
  • Fifty-four percent of executive women agreed that the more successful they become, the lonelier it gets at the top because they enter new peer groups. However, 32% of women identified with imposter syndrome because they did not know others in a similar place to them either personally or professionally.  

For more information or to download the full report, please visit: KPMG.com/WomensLeadership. Join and follow the conversation on @KPMGInspire on Twitter.

KPMG Women’s Leadership Summit
The KPMG Women’s Leadership Summit, now in its sixth year, brings together top leaders from business, politics, sports, and the media to help forge a path for women leaders to advance to the C-suite. The Summit provides hundreds of rising executive women, nominated by their CEOs to participate in the program, with high-impact leadership development content, access to today’s top leaders and year-long networking opportunities. The Summit is being held virtually on October 7 in conjunction with the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, which is taking place at Aronimink Golf Club in Newtown Square, Pennsylvania. Live streaming coverage of the Summit begins at 11:00 a.m. ET at KPMG.com/WomensLeadership.

 

Media contact

Ichiro Kawasaki

Ichiro Kawasaki

Director, Corporate Communications, KPMG US

+1 201-307-8640

About KPMG LLP

KPMG is one of the world’s leading professional services firms, providing innovative business solutions and audit, tax, and advisory services to many of the world’s largest and most prestigious organizations.

KPMG is widely recognized for being a great place to work and build a career. Our people share a sense of purpose in the work we do, and a strong commitment to community service, inclusion and diversity, and eradicating childhood illiteracy.

KPMG is a global organization of independent professional services firms providing audit, tax and advisory services. We operate in 147 countries and territories and have more than 219,000 people working in member firms around the world. KPMG LLP is a member firm of the KPMG global organization of independent member firms associated with KPMG International Limited, a private English company limited by guarantee. Learn more at www.kpmg.com/us.

 

 

Paul Knopp

Paul Knopp

U.S. Chair and Chief Executive Officer, KPMG US

+1 847-612-3437
Laura M. Newinski

Laura M. Newinski

Deputy Chair and Chief Operating Officer, KPMG US

+1 212-954-6528

Related content

Other articles that might interest you