Readers are probably aware of the male solicitor who, in response to an invitation to connect via LinkedIn to a female barrister, commented on the “stunning picture” on her profile. In turn she publically named and shamed him for his “unacceptable and misogynistic behaviour”.
Her LinkedIn profile has since been updated to include the following:
“I am on linked-in for business purposes not to be approached about my physical appearance. The eroticisation of women’s physical appearance is a way of exercising power over women. It silences women’s professional attributes as their physical appearance becomes the subject.”
The press have been having much fun with the story, not least when it was reported she herself had allegedly previously posted comments on social media describing photographs of men and women as being “sexy”, “stunning”, “Hot stuff!” and “oooo lalala!”.
Now, readers of this blog are old enough to make up their own minds as to the appropriateness of his original comments, her response, or whether there is any justification in the implication of hypocrisy on her part, without me needing to add my two cents worth.
Nevertheless, there are a couple of general points that arise.
There is no requirement to add a photograph to a LinkedIn profile. If a conscious decision is made to add a photograph, it cannot come as a complete shock if this prompts comment at some stage. (I once met a female costs lawyer at an Association of Costs Lawyers Annual Conference who commented I was much better looking in my online photograph than in real life.)
It can’t really come as a shock to discover that some people are looking at the profiles that appear on LinkedIn with more interest in the pictures that in the professional qualifications.
When clicking on a LinkedIn profile, the right of the page displays the profiles of “People Also Viewed”. If you are viewing the profile of a young female with accompanying attractive photograph, the other suggested profiles almost invariably suggest other profiles featuring photographs of other attractive young women. Coincidence or LinkedIn’s algorithms recognising people’s searching habits?
The other aspect of this story that interested me was how the initial incident ever arose.
The press have referred to the female barrister as a “human rights barrister”. In her LinkedIn profile she describes herself as:
“I am working towards a doctorate in Law and Sociology at the University of Cambridge researching the legal and policy approaches designed to combat female genital mutilation in England and Wales. Prior to commencing a PhD, I practised as a barrister in family law.
As an associate tenant at the Chambers of Michael Mansfield Q.C. I have a strong background in working with vulnerable women seeking legal support having undertaken pro bono work in the Middle East, Pakistan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo where I helped establish the country’s first free legal advice centre.
I write for a range of publications including the Independent, and the Guardian on civil liberties violations, and often speak at public events.”
The solicitor she approached to link to her is Head of European Intellectual Property at a City firm.
Perhaps she thought her background in family law and female genital mutilation would be the perfect skillset that a City IP solicitor would be looking for when instructing a barrister. Perhaps she is looking to move into a totally different area of law and thought that linking up with random strangers via LinkedIn would be the best way to do this.
I note her profile shows her as having over 500 connections. Having received no end of invitations via LinkedIn to connect with those I neither know nor work in the same area of law as, I never cease to me amazed by those who seem to treat LinkedIn as if it as a popularity contest with the aim of amassing the highest number of “connections” regardless of any genuine common professional link.