How Rep. Summer Lee Got Over Her Imposter Syndrome Heading to Congress (Bloomberg)

Lee is the first Black woman elected to represent Pennsylvania, and one of many “firsts” making this the most diverse Congress yet.

Jan 05, 2023
In the News

The 118th United States Congress is the most diverse the US has ever seen. Women hold a record number of seats — an almost 60% increase from a decade ago, with many stepping into bigger leadership roles this year, too. And for the first time ever, a Black man will head up party leadership

There were also a number of “firsts” made by lawmakers who won their seats last November: the first Gen Z member of Congressthe first woman to represent Vermont, and the first Black woman elected to the House of Representatives from Pennsylvania, Summer Lee.

I spoke to Lee in December, the day she resigned from her role in the Pennsylvania state government, and asked her how she was feeling. 

“A little bittersweet. It’s been a rough ride,” she said. “Making history has has personal consequences and takes a personal toll. But we were able to do it anyways, which is incredibly exciting.” 

Lee was proud, but didn’t want it to overshadow how difficult it still is for Black women to win national office

“I hate to say it, but it’s incredibly damning,” she said. “It’s not because we’re unqualified; it’s not because we aren’t ready on day one. It’s because there are so many institutional and systemic barriers that nobody but those of us seeking to break them care to address.” 

That, however, gives her confidence going into the legislative year and helps her keep imposter syndrome at bay. Because she faced so many obstacles getting elected, she knows she’s more than qualified to do the job. “We’re overqualified to bring our experiences to the table, to bring our perspectives to the table. In fact, those are the precise things that our government has been needing and longing for,” she said. 

Of course, there will still be challenges. The US government still doesn’t look exactly like the country it serves — women, for example, still only hold 28% of seats in Congress — and Lee’s party doesn’t have the majority.

But Lee’s ready to do her job, she said.

“I measure success by being an honest representation of the many voices of this district by being able to gauge them in different ways, by being able to include them and not exclude them,” she said, “and by finding unique ways to bring them to the space.” —Ella Cerón

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