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How lawyers can kick impostor syndrome to the kerb

Mentorship programs and self-advocacy could help lawyers “dim away” the impostor syndrome, a human resources specialist said.

user iconMalavika Santhebennur 14 November 2023 Corporate Counsel
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Ahead of the Women in Law Forum 2023, LOD head of people and development and talent acquisition (Australia) Sofia Khan observed that while many legal professionals experience impostor syndrome, it is often more prevalent among women.

“I think that can be highlighted more by the lack of representation of women in leadership positions,” she told Lawyers Weekly.

“For me personally, you want to be the change that you want people to see. If you can’t see someone like yourself in high executive positions or someone going through something similar to you, you can often doubt whether you can do something yourself.”


Implementing some strategies could help women vanquish impostor syndrome, particularly by joining mentorship programs within their own organisation or externally, Ms Khan suggested.

She will outline these and other strategies during her panel session at the Women in Law Forum this month to build confidence and highlight the importance of self-advocacy.

Ms Khan – who mentors law students – said professional bodies like the Law Society and the Association of Corporate Counsel and groups like Business Chicks have a number of resources and networking opportunities to support professional women.

LinkedIn could also help legal professionals connect with affiliated groups that offer mentorship and networking programs.

“I think when you have a mentor, it can dim away the impostor syndrome many of us experience because you’re talking to a like-minded person,” Ms Khan said.

“It’s easy to get in your own head and think you can’t do something or you haven’t done it long enough. But when you work with those in a more senior position, they can separate your thoughts with facts, which is so important.”

“While you may take your wins for granted and think it’s part of your job, they help you celebrate your successes. Moreover, mentors help women find a way to juggle work with family commitments or pursuing other interests. It can bring about a sense of community.”

Ms Khan said she has encountered many women who often believe they are not capable enough or discount their experience because they took a career break.

She said she builds their confidence by reminding them of their achievements, knowledge base, and experience and assures them that they will reacclimatise to the workplace quickly after returning from the break.

Advocate for yourself

Aside from finding mentors, women must also advocate for themselves to thrive in their workplace, Ms Khan highlighted.

“No one is better equipped to advocate for you, showcase your progress and your experience than yourself,” she asserted.

“I think we can aspire to bring about real change when we shed light on the challenges we have faced and how we’ve overcome them. That’s usually done with impact when they are personal experiences.”

Ms Khan also urged women to seize opportunities in the workplace and nominate themselves for promotions and higher leadership or executive positions.

Studies have indicated that among similarly qualified men and women, men are more willing to apply for a given role compared to women.

“Women automatically miss out on opportunities because they rule themselves out, thinking they’re not qualified for the role. But you are qualified,” Ms Khan underlined.

“Take the time to reflect on what you’ve achieved. Have a look at your performance review document, appraisals, and deal sheets to remind yourself of your successes and every deal you’ve ever done.”

She concluded: “Drown out the noise and separate facts from what’s running through your head. When you review everything, you’ll start to see that things are really positive.”

To hear more from Sofia Khan about how you can advocate for yourself to thrive in your organisation, come along to the Women in Law Forum 2023.

It will be held on Thursday, 23 November 2023, at Crown Melbourne.

Click here to buy tickets and don’t miss out!

For more information, including agenda and speakers, click here.