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Legal Imposter??

As we approach International Women’s Day, it seemed timely that I was talking about Imposter Phenomenon at The Birmingham Law Society at the end of last week. It was fascinating learning from the incredible Katie Broomfield about the path to success for women since the 1900s in law. Mary Sykes, daughter of a lawyer from Huddersfield fought her “imposter” if ever she felt it, to become the first solicitor in the UK with a company in her own name. She wasn’t celebrated or recorded up until now thanks to Katie. I thought my Mum had it bad in the 80s trying to forge ahead in the manufacturing industry with a nickname like ‘Penni Legs’, but in 1913, the legal profession opposed women in law as there was a “sense of logic missing in a woman”!

Can you imagine if women like Mary Sykes, Enid Rosser and Lady Hale had been paralysed in the way we can sometimes be by Imposter Phenomenon? Pauline Rose Clance defined Imposter Phenomenon “as a feeling of intellectual phoniness despite success” and Dr Terri Simpkin, the go-to expert on the subject, explains that it is high achieving individuals in a minority that are most likely to be gripped by the phenomenon. Speaking last week, I asked the question- Do we get in our own way in our goals of #eachforequal? Can we entirely blame society and organisations for our lack of progress when our imposter also gets in the way? Do we promote ourselves in the same way most men do? Of course, organisations need to put systems in place to ensure equal opportunities from the get-go but we can also learn from the journeys of the women in Katie’s book- The First 100 years. I am sure there were times when women wanting to be admitted to the roll went through times of self-doubt, being told they were too enthusiastic by nature and “No good lawyer is ever enthusiastic.”! Thankfully these amazing women regardless laid the foundations for incredible female judges such as my wonderful friend Rhona Campbell who joined the circuit bench last year. 37% of barristers are women in 2020 despite reservations 100 years ago that women would use “feminine wiles to influence judgements” and male prosecutors would be too chivalrous to argue cases against women judges!… Hilarious!!

There is still much to be done. Despite equality upon admittance to the roll, women are still in the minority at senior levels, around 30%. Remember the higher up we go, the more evidence of success increases our likelihood of feeling like an imposter. Research by Aspirant Analytics indicates that companies like Shoosmiths and Irwin Mitchell do buck the trend positively with 34% and 43% respectively so we are going in the right direction. My thanks to Mary Sykes and all the pioneering women who believed in themselves and here’s to the next 100 years and keeping the imposter at bay! 

Want to know more? 

Katie co-authored the First 100 Years book, available on Amazon. www.first100years.org.uk/person/katie-broomfield/ 

Dr Terri Simpkin has a fantastic new website www.forfakesake.org where you can learn more about imposter phenomenon and why it is not a syndrome!

GuruYou™ can help with hints and tips on how to overcome imposter phenomenon and also how to go from victim to victor in your quest to achieve #eachforequal in the legal profession.