Four female leaders on how to deal with imposter syndrome

Chase’s Chief Brand Officer Leanne Fremar; Droga5’s Global Chief Executive Officer Sarah Thompson; Hershey’s Chief Marketing Officer Jill Baskin; Harley Davidson’s Chief Marketing Officer Heather Malenshek; Campaign US Editor Lindsay Stein
Chase’s Chief Brand Officer Leanne Fremar; Droga5’s Global Chief Executive Officer Sarah Thompson; Hershey’s Chief Marketing Officer Jill Baskin; Harley Davidson’s Chief Marketing Officer Heather Malenshek; Campaign US Editor Lindsay Stein

Imposter syndrome affects more people than you may think.

Imposter syndrome, or feeling that one's success isn’t earned, can strike anyone, but it's more prevalent among women as they climb the ranks in their careers.

That voice of doubt needs to be muted, said four female industry executives on a panel called "Path Pavers: A Candid Conversation With The Women Shaping Heavyweight Brands" during Advertising Week.

Leanne Fremar, chief brand officer at JP Morgan Chase said: "Imposter syndrome is something that certainly I’ve struggled with throughout my career. It’s okay to feel that way, but it's not okay to let that emotion to control you. You have to tune out that imposter voice." 

For young women especially, that imposter voice can seem like a yell, but just the fact that the conversation is happening is a step in the right direction, said Sarah Thompson, global and New York CEO at Droga5.

"We have progressed because we can be open and have conversations about the fact. I felt like I could have a conversation about feeling a bit like an imposter," she told the audience.  

"Today it’s okay to have doubts and it’s okay to talk about them. My advice is not to do what people project on you, take the feedback, but forge your own path," she added. 

Jill Baskin, chief marketing officer at the Hershey Company shared a piece of advice that she told her daughter on her first day at a new job in computer science.

"I tell my daughter that just started in a male-dominated field you’re just as smart or smarter than everyone in there, you just remember that every day," said Baskin.

But there is still much work to be done in terms of women in the industry and feeling comfortable enough to have these intimate conversations.

"I’m very lucky to work in a company where we don’t really have that glass ceiling," said Heather Malanshek, chief marketing officer for Harley Davidson.

"Although Harley davidson feels like it would be a very masculine brand but we have a lot of women in senior leadership positions.

"But previous roles I’ve been at there has been a heavy glass ceiling, and at some point if you keep punching that damn thing and it won’t break then you have to make another choice. But I think in many cases it’s still there and it’s shocking that it’s the case in 2019," she said.

When asked at the end of the panel what the women would want this discussion around female empowerment and gender equality to be about in five years - using one word - the answers were powerful: Over, less and silent. 

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