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DIFF podcast: Imposter syndrome makes me worry I’ve been hired ‘to tick a box’

  • 07/05/2021
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DIFF podcast: Imposter syndrome makes me worry I’ve been hired ‘to tick a box’
Imposter syndrome at work can present itself in many ways and leave some people wondering if they have been hired to reach a target, the Diversity & Inclusivity Finance Forum (DIFF) Podcast has heard.


Chloe Hylton, regional manager and surveyor at Legal and General Surveying Services, said although being of mixed heritage had not been a hurdle in her career, her insecurities made her wonder if she had been given a job to fill a quota. 

Hylton also questioned if her “more palatable” appearance made her an easy diversity hire. 

She said: “I have what a lot of people call ‘light skin privilege’. Most people, when they look at me, they don’t actually think that I am mixed heritage.  

“I have quite pale skin and if I straighten my hair, I do think most people think I might have had a bit of lip filler and a bit of fake tan. So, I don’t actually look very ethnically diverse.”  

Hylton added: “Whilst I haven’t had any hurdles against me for my ethnicity, there’s always been something in the back of my mind that because I tick a diversity box and a lot of companies do try to up their numbers. . . the way that I look, people’s perception of me might be that I’m more palatable for an ethnic minority. Because I don’t look the way that a lot of other people do, it’s fine and it’s an easier win. 

Maybe that speaks a bit more to my imposter syndrome that I worry that because I’m a woman and because I do tick some boxes, I’m more of a preferred option because it reflects well on a company, she said. 


Open up the talent pool

When asked how to overcome the feeling that someone had been given a job or promotion because they came from an underrepresented group, Ben Thompson, deputy chief executive of Mortgage Advice Bureau (MAB) said the sector had a responsibility to widen its net when looking for recruits to improve its overall diversity. 

He said: “I don’t think as a sector generally we’re trying hard enough to do that at the moment. I think if we look at traditional recruitment agencies and recruitment policies, they archetypally made up of the typical footprint of ethnicity and gender.  

“Where we can try a bit harder is to proactively go after real talent that belongs to different categories. 

While he did not agree with the practice of filling quotas to manage statistics, Thompson said widening the scope and looking for people in different areas would open up the talent pool before eventually narrowing to give the role to the most suitable candidate. 

He also acknowledged that the mortgage industry had made progress with gender diversity but was still behind on ethnicity. 


Signs of imposter syndrome 

Thompson said he had not seen evidence of imposter syndrome among his workforce and praised the industry for normalising diversity and giving his colleagues the confidence to feel secure in their roles.

However, Hylton pointed out that the sense of not belonging could present itself in numerous ways that might not be noticeable to others. 

She said: “Trying to overachieve, working extra for longer and also if anything does go wrong, how that’s handled internally. The devastation, the worry, the concern that ‘you’re wrong, you’re not good enough,’ and then the spiral out of that. 

“It tends to be those kinds of things that you wouldn’t necessarily identify as imposter syndrome but will kind of be evident in some of their actions.”  

Hylton said it could also be a sign if someone was unwilling to accept praise for doing a good job. 

“When something is either going really well and they won’t want to take the compliment. Or tell you that it was everybody else’s input not theirs.  

“Or when something doesn’t go quite that well and it’s the sheer angst, ‘oh my goodness, I’m going to be found out, I shouldn’t be here, I’m not good enough,’ and how that comes out in a workplace,” she added. 


Safety concerns as a woman 

Although Hylton said her ethnicity had not held her back, she said being a woman meant certain health and safety worries were at the forefront of her mind. 

“That centres around lone working. As a woman going into empty properties, dealing with the general public, working at height, there are safety implications with that,” she said. 

Hylton said she had got into the habit of asking companies about what safety measures they had in place whenever she was interviewed for a position, which was something her male counterparts might not consider. 

She said the surveying industry was already doing well to protect its employees with panic alarms and automated calls to emergency services the onus was on the sector to make these protections clearer so the role of a surveyor would be more appealing to women generally. 

Hylton added: “That’s why I ask it in my interviews. Because I’m female and I think it’s important to me. But if a male colleague was interviewing a woman, they might not think to actually push that and make it really clear about the lengths that we as a company go to, to ensure her safety as much as we can.”


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