To be yourself or to be someone else?
High profile Dechert partner Miriam Gonzalez urges wannabes to “fake it” to reach the top, contradicting age-old “just be yourself!” maxim. But then what?
There is an eye-catching quote in an interview with City lawyer (and wife of the deputy PM) Miriam Gonzalez that was published this morning. Speaking to Chambers Student, Gonzalez says:
“You need to learn how to fake self-confidence. I’ve been talking to girls in state schools and I always say to them, ‘look, it’s fantastic that you’re asking me where I got my self-confidence from, because it shows that you assume I have self-confidence. But I learnt to be self-confident by faking it. And when you fake it enough — with hard work and by rehearsing — at some point that fake self-confidence becomes real self-confidence.”
Now faking self-confidence is one thing, and faking one’s very being is another, as Gonzalez’s husband well knows (indeed, poor Nick Clegg is an excellent example of how pretending to be something you’re not in order to bag a job can come back to haunt you). But feigning uber-assuredness still seems a risky strategy. After all, you don’t only have to pull it off at interview, but, if you get the job, keep up the act every day. Sean Jones QC summed up the problem succinctly earlier this week on Twitter.
#pupillageinterviewtips for heaven's sake, be yourself, unless you plan on spending a tough year of pupillage trying to be someone else.
— Sean Jones (@seanjones11kbw) May 23, 2014
Still, it’s nice to hear someone divert from the usual clichés. Gonzalez also has outspoken things to say about the lack of women in the higher echelons of the law, speaking of her impatience with the “excuse” trotted out by big law firms to justify their domination by men at the top. The mother of three explains:
“It’s clear that law firms are not doing enough. If you look at most firms, there’s a big intake of women at trainee level, and then it peaks, and then it starts to drop, and then it drops a lot if you look at the equity partner ranks.
“Some people say ‘well, it’s different for lawyers because the years when you need to make a big career jump are the same years when women may be wanting to take maternity leave. But that applies to a lot of professions, from medicine to physics. So that can’t be an excuse.”
Gonzalez’s comments are made especially interesting by the fact that her firm, Dechert, is one of the worst gender diversity offenders, with women making up a mere 10% of its London-based partners. The average across the City is about 20%, with only five firms in a recent survey of over 100 big law firms employing a lower proportion of women partners than Dechert.
The full interview with Gonzalez is here.