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My advice on imposter syndrome, from a senior boss at a Cambridge women's college

My advice on imposter syndrome, from a senior boss at a Cambridge women's college


Best advice for women with imposter syndrome? I don't have it, says the president of a leading women's college at the University of Cambridge.

Dorothy Byrne, former head of news and current affairs at Channel 4 and now president of Murray Edwards College, Cambridge, said she gives advice to her female students when they graduate to boost their confidence .

My students are all women and I always tell them: I don't have imposter syndrome, I encourage you not to have imposter syndrome. I say, I've been a television journalist for over 40 years, I'm not an imposter, I'm real, but I know plenty of men who are impostors. So I say start now without having imposter syndrome, she told the Hay Festival audience.

Speaking at the event in Powys, Wales, in partnership with The independentByrne added the two things she always says to women in college.

The first thing is that women tend to wait until they have all the qualifications to apply for a job, which is not the case for men. What I want you to do is think about Boris Johnson, he had no qualifications for a job and he applied and he got it, she said.

Byrne notably called Johnson a known liar during the MacTaggart lecture at the Edinburgh Television Festival in 2019, criticizing his refusal at the time to be interviewed by Channel 4.

She added: The second thing I say is: always ask for a raise, because men do it, and in the end you will get one. So personally, I encourage you to wake up every day and go, I don't have imposter syndrome. I am real.

Dorothy Byrne said she tells Cambridge students to think of Boris Johnson when they suffer from imposter syndrome.
Dorothy Byrne said she tells Cambridge students to think of Boris Johnson when they suffer from imposter syndrome. (Getty)

In conversation with leadership coach and author Dr Lucy Ryan, whose book Revolting women explores why middle-aged women are leaving the working world, Byrne also revealed the response she received from a male colleague after commissioning a documentary on the menopause, presented by Davina McCall.

When I ordered the menopause movie, one of my lovely young male colleagues said, “Ooh, I wouldn't order that.” No one will look at it. And I said: Yes, they will. And he said, Well, only old women are going to watch this, and I said, Well, luckily there are a lot of us. She said there was huge prejudice on television against older women.

She also revealed that she was once asked to participate in a panel about being a journalist working in the Middle East, even though she was not a journalist working in the Middle East. Eventually she said she would only appear if the man who asked her admitted that he was only asked because he needed a wife and she was the only one he could think of and he did it.

Dr. Ryan told the audience that his research on older women was considered unpublishable, uninteresting and uninspired. In fact, a professor told me: “No one, my dear, wants to read about old women.

Byrne said there was huge prejudice on television against older women.
Byrne said there was huge prejudice on television against older women. (Alamy)

Speaking to many women over 50 for her book, based on her postdoctoral research, Dr. Ryan found that midlife collisions, such as the combination of a woman going through menopause, a divorce, parental care and older children with mental health problems, meant that many women were forced to leave their jobs.

But, she added, they don't want to leave forever and often find themselves excluded when they try to return.

When asked which country stands out in its treatment of older women in the workplace, Dr. Ryan cited Scandinavian countries, citing the use of quotas and data, followed by evidence that it works.

Hay Festival continues until June 2;




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