Confidence affects us all, whether men or women, but the statistics suggest that in law, women may be more adversely affected than men.
Speaking at the Young Magistrates Special Interest Group Conference in London last month, I quoted a statistic that had been referred to by a psychologist at a Temple Women’s Forum event some time ago. The Temple Women’s Forum was founded in 2012 to encourage and support women barristers throughout their careers and increase the female talent retention rates within law. The stat was that of the applicants to Silk, women applied when they were 90% confident of success whilst men applied when they were 60% confident. The stat was Tweeted widely and a further suggestion made that men may be applying to be Queen’s Counsel when in fact they were just over 50% sure of success.
Either way, the traction this point got on social media demonstrates a really valuable and concerning issue: that levels of confidence directly determine the levels of opportunity to which we expose ourselves, and more worryingly women can at times even stand in their own way.
Some time ago a very capable and highly sought-after barrister colleague and friend of mine asked for my advice about whether she should throw her hat into the ring for a judicial appointment. She was quick to tell me all the reasons why she shouldn’t get the post, as opposed to looking logically at the evidence to suggest she would: her strengths, her skills, her temperament and so on. She was talking herself down and more to the point talking herself out of making the application – she was about to let go of an opportunity, simply to have a go. Coaches love celebrating strengths, so as well as pointing out the far more fabulous qualities that she seemed to have forgotten about herself, than the negative points she had focused on, I asked her a simple question: How would she feel if she did not apply and that some one more junior to herself, less experienced, less qualified and frankly less worthy was to not only apply but be successful? I even named names, to make the point more direct, hard hitting and personal. Are you going to allow your junior to fly by and succeed just because you are feeling a bit insecure and under confident? I’m pleased to say she said “No!!!” and got her application in – and better still, succeeded.
If you are a man or a woman feeling a lack of confidence I would suggest a reality check. Are you celebrating your strengths enough? Are you giving yourself a fighting chance of being in the running by focusing on the positives rather than the negatives, and if you have development gaps learning or upskilling to bridge them. And if you are a woman, ask yourself what would a male colleague do? Would he stand in his own way?
Talk up your strengths, upskill where necessary, and submit that application: You’re got to be in it to win it!
Nikki Alderson has 19 years’ experience at the Criminal Bar and now works as a specialist Corporate and Executive Coach:
Nikki has learnt a lot from her successful career as a barrister, having gained great insights into the responsibilities, pressures and “expected” career paths of those, particularly women, working in law.She sees a challenge within the profession of retaining talented females, given the dearth of women in senior partnership roles and within the judiciary, and is passionate about addressing these issues through the coaching services she provides.
Although her work focuses predominantly on one to one coaching within the workplace, she is also a motivational keynote speaker author of No.1 Bestseller “Raising the Bar: empowering female lawyers through coaching”.
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Or refer to www.nikkialdersoncoaching.com
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