(A Colorado Women’s Bar Association Publication)
August 2000, Vol 22, No. 2
By Kristi Livedalen
Despite the many seminars offered on how to achieve success in the practice of law, all of which invariably mention self-promotion, the concept of self-promotion remains unpalatable to most women. I recently read an article written by Ellen Ostrow, forwarded to me by another CWBA member, on developing self-promotion skill and comfort. The article spoke of the “impostor phenomenon,” which occurs when women shun success because they believe they are fakers who will be found out.
This phenomenon seems almost unbelievable in the year 2000, particularly when speaking of women who are trained to be advocates and who advocate exceedingly well for their clients. Unfortunately, many talented female attorneys are far less effective in advocating for themselves; we have been conditioned to think that we should not do it. This disinclination to self-promote has far reaching consequences, as we know from the Careers & Compensation Study, because it can have a profound effect on the relationships necessary for mentoring, inheritance of clients, and referrals. It can affect negotiations of work schedule, salary, and partnership track, as well as the decision of whether women will work on cases for particular significant clients and have the opportunity for client interaction.
I have witnessed countless instances of men using self-promotion to their great benefit. It is my hope that more CWBA members will realize its value, and the result will be to lessen the salary gap between male and female attorneys. To the extent it helps us to develop clients, it also creates independence and mobility.
As Ellen Ostrow advises, "it is not arrogant to share the skills and knowledge that others need and will be grateful to discover. It is not unseemly to explain your expertise, particularly when it relates to your genuine enthusiasm about your work and arises from a sense of conviction about your capabilities."
Among the 13 steps that Ellen Ostrow lists for developing our skills for self-promotion are: (1) reject gender stereotypes; (2) take calculated risks; (3) cultivate alliances; (4) speak about yourself effectively; (5) strategically select organizations and committees for participation; (6) observe the experts; and (7) get your successes in print.
It is valuable to look to those who have succeeded in this goal and to seek mentoring. At the July CWBA board meeting, there was discussion about the fact that few people have taken full advantage of the mentoring opportunities offered through CWBA, both formally and informally. It is generally easier to recognize the successes of other women, rather than our own. We should also look for opportunities to help draw attention to other CWBA members. In order to break through the glass ceiling, we need to promote ourselves and other women, and I challenge you to take steps in addition to those you have already taken to help make a difference.
Editor’s Note: The full text of “Tooting Your Own Horn - Practical Strategies for Developing Self-Promotion Skill and Comfort,” written by Ellen Ostrow can be found here.