Not disclosing my gender

Published 9th June 2016

I was admitted to the Solicitors’ Roll in July 1977. When I applied for jobs I knew instinctively that I would get nowhere if firms to whom I applied knew from the outset that I was female. I always believed that if I could get as far as an interview, I would have a good chance of success. I therefore sent with all my job applications, my curriculum vitae which I had drafted in such a way as to omit any hint of my gender. I put in only the initials of my forenames, and I omitted such details as the fact that my grammar school’s full title ended with the words,”For Girls”. My strategy worked and I was invited to four or five interviews with various firms of Solicitors who of course all wrote to me as “Mr. ….” . I would then turn up at each interview and the person interviewing me invariably started with the words, “Oh, I didn’t know you were a woman” and I would pretend not to know the reason for the misunderstanding. But, having got that far, the interview would then take place in a straightforward fashion. Two firms offered me a job which I declined for my own reasons. Eventually I accepted the third job offer because I was anxious not to be too fussy or risk never getting a job at all. The interview that led to that job, started in just the same way as ever, and I was actually told, “We don’t employ women” (this, despite the Sex Discrimination Act which had come into force about 2 years earlier, making such decisions unlawful). Then I was told that South Yorkshire was a mining area and miners in particular would never tolerate a woman as their Solicitor. I retorted that the fact that I was female had never bothered the shipyard workers of Jarrow, where I had trained as an Articled Clerk.. Anyway, it was an uncomfortable interview which led to me working there but the firm turned out to be excellent and I was very happy there. There was no more mention of my gender and I got on well with the clients. I was the only female Solicitor in the town for about 2 years. I retired from the profession in 2003 and as far as I was aware, there was no more discrimination on account of my gender.

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