Gender pay gap is defined upon entry into the jobs market, setting the scene for the rest of the rest of women’s careers

New research has revealed females entering the workforce are suffering from imposter syndrome, with lower salary expectations and a lack of confidence, which could be costing them their dream job and affecting their career opportunities.

The research, commissioned by graduate jobs board Milkround, showed one in three (33 per cent) women are worried about low pay and think they’ll earn under £20k in an entry level role, compared to less than a quarter (22 per cent) of their male counterparts.

Males expect to be earning more in five years’ time, with more females (25 per cent compared to 15 per cent males) expecting to be on £25-£30k and more males (23 per cent compared to 17 per cent females) expecting to be on over £35k in that timeframe.

The difference in salary expectations indicates a disparity in confidence levels between the genders. While confidence was the top choice for respondents when asked which soft skills they believe they need to work on most to excel in their career, far more females (41 per cent) reported a lack of confidence than males (28 per cent). Competition from those with more work experience was another concern, with more females (58 per cent) citing it as an issue, compared to males (47 per cent).

Writer and activist, Natasha Devon MBE said:

“Imposter syndrome is more than just ‘lacking confidence’. It’s an all-consuming belief that you aren’t worthy of your career achievements, that you’re a fraud and a fear of being ‘found out’, even if all the evidence shows you to be qualified and capable. Whilst feminism has come on in leaps and bounds over recent years, we still live in a culture where the prototype for success and influence is white, male and middle aged. It’s no wonder, then, that the people most likely to experience imposter syndrome are young women.”

Georgina Brazier, Jobs Expert at Milkround said:

“Confidence issues are affecting graduates before they even hit the workforce, which often lasts with them throughout their career.  Our research shows almost half of all graduates think more self-confidence would help them with their job searches. Once employed, we find that graduates are stepping into the workforce with a preconceived idea on salary, that is connected to their self-confidence.

“While more employers are implementing mentorship programmes to alleviate imposter syndrome and boost confidence among new starters, more needs to be done to ensure that this negative mindset is reversed, before they start working their way up the career ladder. We encourage employers to support graduates entering the workforce though mentorship programmes. This ensures the process is clear and transparent and graduates have a clear view of their career progression.”

Here are Natasha Devon’s top tips for avoiding imposter syndrome:

Know Your Enemy

Having imposter syndrome can feel incredibly isolating, because by its very nature it is something which makes you feel as though you don’t belong. It’s important to remember it’s both common and, unfortunately, normal – particularly amongst women.

Think like your male counterparts

Studies show that men tend to believe they can do jobs for which they are underqualified whereas women are more likely to believe they aren’t right for a role, even if they are overqualified. Think about what your male colleagues may be applying for and channel some of that. Look at their qualifications and experience and measure them, objectively, against yours. It’s usually a reassuring activity.

Combat negative self-talk

We all have an inner critic. Historically, this has served the human species well, it’s essential to have a voice in your head advising caution, especially when running away from a bear. These days, however, the negative voice we’ve evolved to carry around with us is more likely to tell us we aren’t worth a pay rise, can’t do that presentation or will make a fool of ourselves in a meeting. Recognise that voice and tell it to shut up.

Separate instinct from structurally created beliefs

Human beings learn through repetition and a lot of what our brain absorbs happens subconsciously. That’s why we’re all, to a certain extent, a product of our culture. We still live in an environment which tells us the prototype for a powerful person is white, male and middle aged. Realise this is a belief system is not representative of you and is not something you would choose to believe of your own free will.

Stop trying to be liked

Women, on average, fear social rejection more than men. This isn’t an attitude which serves anyone well in the work place. However, we teach people how to treat us. Working for free, never using the word ‘no’ and letting other people take credit for your work might mean less confrontation, but it will leave you underpaid, undervalued and exhausted.






Rebecca joined the HRreview editorial team in January 2016. After graduating from the University of Sheffield Hallam in 2013 with a BA in English Literature, Rebecca has spent five years working in print and online journalism in Manchester and London. In the past she has been part of the editorial teams at Sleeper and Dezeen and has founded her own arts collective.