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Calling all ‘imposters’ – we’re offering something for nothing!

A message to all the ‘imposters’ in my network…I’m offering FREE help! Are you looking for another opportunity? Are you finding that it’s even harder today than it’s ever been? I’ve been wondering about the position of professionals – especially women – in the HR sector during and after the pandemic as it’s clear that […]

A message to all the ‘imposters’ in my network…I’m offering FREE help!

Are you looking for another opportunity?

Are you finding that it’s even harder today than it’s ever been?

I’ve been wondering about the position of professionals – especially women – in the HR sector during and after the pandemic as it’s clear that people are leaving the workplace in increasing numbers and this is especially true of women HR profession. It is, to my mind, often due to bad experiences at the hands of the businesses (and dare I say it the bosses) they work for.

For me, the usual challenges of major factors such as Imposter Syndrome are being exacerbated by the post-pandemic (is it too soon to start saying ‘post-pandemic’ yet?) world of work.

It’s always been known that women, women of colour especially and the LGBTQ+ community are most at risk of experiencing Imposter Syndrome. It’s not exclusively experienced by women of course but we are, after all, the people who have traditionally experienced systemic oppression. We are, furthermore, directly or indirectly told our whole lives that we are less-than (or undeserving of) success. We don’t always hear it or see it as plain as day, yet statistically this narrative is always borne out.

As I say, we know this isn’t exclusively affecting women, yet we also know that corporate culture exacerbates the problem of imposter syndrome. This is particularly true for women, who are less likely to be recruited and even less likely to be promoted to senior positions.

And recent commentators have pointed out that women’s global job losses due to the coronavirus pandemic were 1.8 times greater than men’s, and we should be alarmed at this.

In the United States they have been experiencing what is being called the ‘Great Resignation’ as people – and women in particular – are leaving the workplace in ever-increasing numbers during the pandemic. This is said largely to be due to the growing realisation that a better work/life balance was becoming difficult to achieve. But is this the real reason?

We know, for example, that many schools and nurseries were closed or limited their hours/pupil numbers during the various lockdowns we lived through. Working mothers often had to decide between taking on more tasks at work or taking on extra caring (and home-schooling) duties for their children at home whilst working or furloughed. In fact, 80% of women across 10 western countries said their workloads increased as a result of the pandemic. This same survey of 5,000 women also found that 66% took on more responsibilities at home.

The pandemic has exposed many existing weaknesses and problems in the labour market. For too long, many were ignored while business was good, but now there’s a struggle to get workers back in the office. This is especially true of women, so much so that the economic downturn in the US for example is being called a ‘She-cession’ as in the first weeks of the pandemic, an astounding 3.5 million mothers with school-aged children either took extended leave of absence, lost their job or left the job market entirely.

Thankfully we don’t have that as a problem, do we? After all, our government is constantly telling us that we have “the fastest growing economy in the G7” and we living through a time of economic boom.

But are we?

In fact, although the latest data shows that the UK’s economy grew the most over the past year (looking at the change between the third quarter of 2020 and the third quarter of 2021) the UK’s growth was only fifth of the G7 countries when comparing the second and third quarters of 2021. Over the course of the pandemic so far the UK’s economy has experienced the second worst growth among the G7, contracting by 1.5% (fact-checked by by the way…just in case you were wondering – lies, damn lies and statistics eh?).

Anyway, if there is an issue when considering the vacancies versus available talent conundrum (and I would definitely say that there is!) how do companies square the circle?

So, as well as reducing the incidence of factors such as Imposter Syndrome, I’ve been asking myself, is the continuation of flexible working for example (or more precisely the lack of it) a factor? Are there real changes occurring in the workplace or is this not an authentic picture? And importantly, is agile and hybrid working just a flash-in-the-pan when we consider the central government drive to get workers out of their homes and back into the physical office?

We know that agile/hybrid is attractive to many workers – mainly women – and we must assume that stemming potential losses from the UK’s own ‘Great Resignation’ are a top priority for business leaders this year. And I should point out that the changes needed are not all about the wishes of employees.

There has been an increasing attitude of us being ‘over it’ now and that things have returned to normal. Yet the rapid spread of the recent Omicron variant has demonstrated that we will, inevitably, have to live with Covid for much longer. So maybe, as employers, we shouldn’t keep repeating the mistakes we’ve been making up to now and learn from the situation instead. If we reflect more and adjust our behaviours, it may well be possible to work more flexibly (and dare I say it, profitably?) by being better prepared for the next variant, and the next after that, and so on.

In her excellent article in ‘HR Review’ Lynn Smith describes why agile working is not a passing trend. She explains how HR departments shouldn’t be expected to predict spikes in whichever variant we face next, but that they can be among the first people in an organisation to take proactive steps when developments emerge.

The case for flexible, agile-working arrangements has been made frequently and forcefully since the first lockdown was introduced in March 2020. The vaccine roll-out and booster programme, however, has seen many employers retreat from these measures, viewing them as temporary solutions that are no longer necessary. And I for one, firmly believe that we can all can take actions to protect our people and our businesses from future interruptions by learning from what we have all been through.

Someone once said “uncertain times call for certainty of leadership” and this is my new mantra in a post-Covid world! And I am making a certain and conscious promise to address factors such as imposter syndrome in HR and supporting those Clients and Candidates who, in turn, will go on to support their own colleagues for years to come.

I am hereby offering my support to you as a woman in the HR sector, to help rid yourself of self-limiting habits; to help you find work at a level that suits your talents and negotiate better (more flexible) working practices; to educate those around you that these things matter now, more than ever; or to signpost you to someone who can!

If we can focus on employee wellbeing and mutual support first, success can – and will – follow.

Jane Barry


“Liberty of thought is the life of the soul”