High Intelligence Specialist Deborah L. Ruf, Ph.D. comments in her book Losing Our Minds: Gifted Children Left Behind about some of the factors in why there are fewer eminent women in most fields :
“In my experience, most girls and women, as a group, tend to see shades of meaning and concepts more easily and are more general in their interests than most boys and men.
“Many girls and women also enjoy learning about a variety of topics to a fairly high level more than they tend to enjoy specializing in something that they feel would restrict them in any way.
“When both people in a couple have equally high intellectual abilty, it is not unusual for them to assume that the male is smarter because he can dominate in his one subject. I point this out because women often underestimate themselves and their intellectual abilities.”
[Photo: Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn.]
So how may this sort of self-defeating perception and identity develop?
Actor Mena Suvari was raised in an affluent family in Rhode Island, and says her upbringing was so sheltered, she never even learned how to take out the garbage.
After achieving stardom in 1999’s American Beauty, at age 21 she married cinematographer Robert Brinkmann, 17 years her senior.
She remained insecure and dependent. “I’d convinced myself that I wasn’t capable of doing things,” she says.
“I felt as if I were waiting for someone to validate me.”
Another aspect may be fraud feelings, which can endure despite high levels of achievement.
“I always feel like something of an impostor. I don’t know what I’m doing.” Jodie Foster made that comment when she was guest of honor at the Hollywood Reporter Women in Entertainment Power 100 breakfast. She is a recipient of the Sherry Lansing Leadership Award.
Many talented and creative people experience impostor feelings and beliefs about themselves, despite their accomplishments.
Valerie Young, Ed.D. is an expert on impostor syndrome and commented in an Entrepreneur magazine article: “Millions of people, from entrepreneurs to celebrities, have a hard time internalizing their accomplishments.”
The article author notes “the impostor syndrome is especially common among people who become successful quickly or early, and among outsiders, such as women in male-dominated industries.”
But Dr. Young notes on her site that the issue of impostor feelings and beliefs is not for only one gender: “Men are attending my seminars in increasing numbers, and among graduate students the male-female ratio is roughly fifty-fifty.”
See her site for her book and programs: Overcome the Impostor Syndrome.
Another example is actor Emma Watson, who commented about its impact for her:
“It’s almost like the better I do, the more my feeling of inadequacy actually increases, because I’m just going, Any moment, someone’s going to find out I’m a total fraud, and that I don’t deserve any of what I’ve achieved.
From post: Getting beyond impostor feelings.
Beliefs and achievement
Actor Hilary Swank has commented about achievement: “As in life, your mind can be the hugest obstacle or tool, depending on how you choose to use it. And I find that a lot of people who are successful in life say, ‘I can do this, and I will do this.’
“Their minds don’t get in their way; whereas people who wake up and say, ‘Oh, I can’t,’ their mind is in their way, and it’s going to stop them from doing what they need to do to achieve their dream.”
[Photo: as boxer Maggie Fitzgerald in Million Dollar Baby.]
Quotes of Mena Suvari and Hilary Swank from Women and Talent post The courage to define yourself.