Joana Inch: Is Imposter Syndrome Holding Us Back Financially?



Brilliant women and their imposter syndrome: could combatting it help bridge the gender pay gap?


Here’s a controversial question I’d love to put up to a debate…


Could it be,“in some cases, not all”, that the gender pay gap, which in a 2020 Australia sees that women are getting paid $0.81 for every dollar a man makes, be a result of Brilliant Women simply not recognising their worth and hence demanding it?


This gap has only decreased by a staggering $0.07 since 2015 which poses the question – what’s contributing to this? And how can we take steps to improve it?


What’s causing the pay gap?


I’m certainly not a socio-economic expert but I have to look at this from my angle and my personal experience working in a digital media agency. I know that despite all of my career and personal achievements, my imposter syndrome often creeps up and I still don’t feel comfortable asking for more money. I know that my male counterparts don’t appear to have this issue. Is that why they’re earning more?


Could dealing with our imposter-syndrome and recognising our self-worth help bridge the gender pay-gap?


It’s worth exploring, for sure.


I’ll start by sharing my story…


In my 15 year career, and now as the owner of Hat Media, I have rarely put up my prices for services offered. Despite adding the following achievements to my list:

  • Best-selling author in the categories of Entrepreneurship, Web Marketing and Ecommerce (my most recent book is Go To Market the marketing and scaling blue print for startups).

  • I helped a tech giant earn more than US$66million in 12 months via my content marketing efforts.

  • I helped a start-up launch overseas with great success.

  • I continually help increase the lead gen efforts of my clients with +20% growth year on year.

Although I feel comfortable with my income, I have to question if this type of mentality is contributing to the gender pay gap.


And if I am doing it, then how many other women are experiencing this also?


So, to answer the first question, YES. I think our inability to recognise and demand what we are worth is contributing to the gender pay gap. In a way.


How can we take steps to combat the gender pay gap?


Well, this is a long journey and one that I feel has had a really slow improvement over the years. So I believe it’s crucial to start with a simple baby step. A step whereby we take measures to help us to recognise our self-worth and shed that imposter syndrome once and for all.


What is Imposter Syndrome?


According to Harvard Business Review, Imposter Syndrome can be defined as a collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist despite evident success. ‘Imposters’ suffer from chronic self-doubt and a sense of intellectual fraudulence. These feelings override any sense of success or external proof of a person’s competence.


According to BBC, imposter syndrome is more common to women than men, but it’s also more common in women of colour and the LGBTQ community. And according to clinical psychologist Emily Hu, we’re more likely to experience imposter syndrome if we don’t have role models we can relate to. That is, when we can’t see examples of people who look like us or share our background, who are clearly succeeding in our field.


In other words, you can’t be what you can’t see.


So, what are my tips for combatting Imposter Syndrome?


1. Take stock of your feelings.


Do a deep dive into why your self-worth is the way it is. Keep a journal – writing things down helps to clarify thoughts and process them. In your journal, ask yourself the following:


a. What am I feeling? Is it fear, is it inconsistency? What are the exact emotions?

b. Why am I thinking like this? Is it fear of stepping out of my comfort zone? Is this something I really want to do?

c. Do these thoughts help or hinder me?

d. Have other people done this before me?


As you start to answer these questions, you’ll realise that negative thoughts probably aren’t serving you. You may even start to recognise the difference between simple nerves at trying something new, and imposter syndrome. You might find that nerves actually push you outside of your comfort zone and help you grow.


2. Surround yourself with cheerleaders.


This could be family and friends that want you to be yourself, try new things and succeed. More importantly, however, this could be mentors and online groups that you can access who have been there, done that and are happy to show you the ropes.


As you talk to more cheerleaders/mentors, you’ll realise that nobody was born skilled in a particular area. It’s always something they had to learn and master, which can only be done by throwing yourself in there and going for it!

3. Become a “YES” woman.


When you're presented with a new opportunity, it's important to distinguish between the voice in your head that says ‘NO, you're not worthy’ and ‘NO, your time is better spent on other tasks that take priority.’ The former is your impostor syndrome speaking and if this is something you recognise, then my last tip is to become a YES woman – even if just for one month.


In December 2020, I decided to say yes to every networking opportunity I could find. Time was a little stretched, but I hadn’t felt worthy of speaking to certain people in the past. I was ready to combat this negativity.


When I put myself out there, I was surprised to learn that they wanted to chat with me just as much as I wanted to chat to them. This little experiment allowed me to:


  • Meet local startup founders with brilliant and unique ideas (that will hopefully hit the market soon).

  • Meet startup founders from around the world (I even took calls at 9pm at night!), and learn how they had evolved their businesses globally.


This exposure provided valuable insights for my agency. And I’m now excited to say that I’m building my very own Startup Accelerator that will help Australian businesses expand to global markets. Something I never thought I’d do, had I not spoken to these wonderful people.


I leave you on that note and hope these tips help you to truly recognise your worth and demand that pay rise.


Joana Inch is the co-founder and head of digital at Hat Media, a full-funnel digital marketing agency working with tech and SaaS companies.