Impostor Syndrome & Stereotype Threat

The professional world, particularly technology world, is filled with articles about managing Impostor Syndrome. But rarely, do I encounter discussions about Stereotype Threat - the fact that a negative stereotype about a group can actually impede an individual's ability to succeed.

You may be great at math, but if you're part of a group that's stereotyped to be bad at math, when you find yourself challenged by a problem the threat of the stereotype impacts your cognitive ability to problem solve.

Now think about interviews where you are whiteboarding a solution - and you already feel like an impostor. Think about when you struggle to solve a problem, and you're the only in the group who is self-taught. The stress of validating a false stereotype makes it harder for us to focus on the problem. 

The good news is, you're not just part of one group. There are many things that define you - and focusing on the other things that define you is one great way of overcoming the challenges of Stereotype Threat.

For more, check out Adam Grant's Re:Thinking episode with Claude Steele, or read more on Wikipedia.


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