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Kathleen Canul, director of ombuds services at UCLA, at a workshop on gender politics in the workplace. Photo by Mary Braswell

Overcoming ‘Imposter Syndrome’ and Other Tips for Women in the Workplace

UCLA Director of Ombuds Services Kathleen Canul shared insights about navigating gender politics in the working world with UCLA Luskin students and staff at an April 25, 2019, workshop. Bias and discrimination persist in some workplaces, requiring women to armor up, forge alliances with other women and at times employ “ninja-like maneuvering” to advance in an organization, she said. Drawing from her career in psychology and conflict resolution, as well as her experiences parenting three young women, Canul talked about the pitfalls of “impostor syndrome.” Self-doubt can derail career opportunities and damage self-esteem, she said, but she shared a secret with the audience of about 30 women: “You’re not alone.” Impostor syndrome afflicts even those at the highest rungs of power. The cure, she said, is developing a keen understanding of one’s own value — “that internal sense of who you are and why you’re here and what you’re good at.” A person’s viewpoints are shaped by gender, culture and upbringing, and women should embrace these differences, Canul said. “We have the ability to be disarming, belying stereotypes and shifting perspectives,” she said. “As we continue to enter the workforce, as we continue to advance in corporations and higher education, the more people know us — and I mean know us for our experiences, our gender, our ethnicity and our cultural and racial background — it will open doors for others.” The workshop was sponsored by UCLA Luskin’s Association of Master of Public Policy Students; Diversity, Disparities and Difference (D3) Initiative; and Career Services.