challenges faced by indian women legal professionals (full report)

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Rainmaker ( has released a report on the challenges faced by women lawyers in India based on a survey of the experiences of eighty-one mothers working in the legal profession. I have attached a short Press Release and an Executive Summary of the report with this email.The report, the first to look into the presence of women in law firms, litigation practice, and the legal departments of companies, contains data on work-life balance, gender bias in the legal workspace, parental leave policies, transition from maternity leave to work, and the rating of employers on their policies and practices. The report also offers diversity solutions to aid employers in retaining talent and making the workspace conducive for working mothers.Please do let us know your feedback. Write to


A REPORT BASED ON THE STUDYCONDUCTED IN DELHI, MUMBAI, AND BANGALORE AMONG WORKINGMOTHERS IN THE LEGAL PROFESSIONThis report may be cited as:Makhija and Raha, Gender Diversi in the Indian Legal Sector, Rainmaker, 2012.SONAL MAKHIJA AND SWAGATA RAHACHALLENGES FACED BY INDIANWOMEN LEGAL PROFESSIONALS CONTENTS Introduction 1 Methodology 41. Prole of respondents 61.1 Respondents across sectors and cities 71.2 Age prole and work experience 81.3 Educational qualications and annual income 111.4 Number and age of children 13 Personal history - Anju Jain Kumar 14 Personal history - Priyanka Roy 172. Women at work 192.1 Factors that inuence employment 202.2 Work hours 232.3 Reduced hours and part-time work 262.4 Carrying work home and working on weekends 282.5 Flexibili at work 302.6 Work-life balance 332.7 Sabbaticals and their repercussions 382.8 Mentorship 402.9 Is the legal workspace gendered? 41 Personal history - Haripriya Padmanabhan 48 Personal history - Jayana Kothari 513. Materni benet policies and the impact of motherhood on the career 533.1 Impact of pregnancy on career 543.2 Parental leave policies 573.3 Extension of materni leave 603.4 Break aer materni leave 613.5 Resumption of work 623.6 Transition from materni to work 643.7 Impact of motherhood on career 70 Personal history - Liz Mathew 73 Personal history - Madhurima Mukherjee 75 Personal history - Kosturi Ghosh 774. Assessment of employers 804.1 Is your employer empathetic towards the needs of working parent? 824.2 How would you rate the measures adopted by your employer to promote exibili and encourage work-life balance? 834.3 How would you rate the childcare assistance (if any) oered by your employer? 864.4 How would you rate the diversi programmes (if any) oered by your employer? 875. Concluding observations and recommendations 885.1 Duration of paternal leave 905.2 Factors that can help change negative perceptions towards working mothers 925.3 Factors that can make the transition of women from materni to the work force easy 945.4 Measures that can be adopted by employers to make the environment conducive for working mothers and to promote work-life balance 965.5 Factors that would make courtrooms conducive for women in litigation 101 Acknowledgements 105 About the authors 106 About Rainmaker 107INTRODUCTIONIn the last decade, the Indian legal sector has emerged as a competitive and rapidly growing business sector. India has witnessed substantial growth in the demand for legal services aer Liberalisation. The eagerness of foreign lawyers to enter the Indian legal market is a validation of this growing demand for legal professionals, considering, India is a market that remains closed to foreign lawyers.Nonetheless, small Indian law rms headed by young lawyers, are sprouting in metros on a regular basis. Despite this growth, the corporate legal sector in India is still considered small in comparison to its more robust and large counterpart - litigation. The image of a lawyer in India, according to Professor Marc Galanter, conjures up a courtroom lawyer as opposed to a business adviser.1 Yet, one would agree that this observation sits uncomfortably today with the growth of full-service law rms in metropolitan cities and the seing up of full-service legal departments in large companies.The education sector has witnessed the most signicant impact of the growth of the Indian legal market. There has been a surge in the establishment of law schools empowered to award the ve-year integrated B.A., B.B.A., or B. Sc., Ll.B (Honours) degrees. The number of women and men graduating from premier National Law Universities have almost equalled over the past decade. Ideally, more women graduating from law schools should translate into more women partners, more women designated as senior advocates, and more women leading in-house legal departments. . The reali, however, could not be further from this.Gender Diversi Benchmark for Asia 2011, a report by Communi Business, mapped the presence of women at junior, middle, and senior levels of twen-one companies in China, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Malaysia, and Singapore. according to the report, India is the worst performer when it comes to female employment from junior to mid-level and the greatest leak takes place between junior and middle level positions. 2 India also has the lowest percentage of women in the workforce as compared to other countries.3 The authors of the report observed that Indian women raised the subject of personal sacrice (in terms of having children) in the quest for success 4 and that [w]ith fewer women making it from junior 1 M., Galanter (1969), Introduction: The Study of the Indian Legal Profession, 3 LAW &SOCY REV 201, 202 (1968-69), Universi of Chicago [Online] at hp:// We realise that the growth of law rms in India is restricted to metropolitan cities, and does not necessarily hold true for towns and districts.2 Communi Business, Gender Diversi Benchmark for Asia, 2011, p. 5 hp:// 3 Id at p.13.4 Supra n.2 at p.6. 1to middle levels, the pool of women able to move to senior level positions is that much smaller and therefore the problem of the leaking pipeline is actually more severe. 5 While the report pertains to the presence of women in select companies, their ndings and observations explain why women are invisible in managerial positions. In 1921, the Allahabad High Court enrolled Ms. Cornelia Sorabji and thus paved the way for womens entry into the legal profession.6 More than eight decades later, of the 397 advocates designated as Senior Advocates in the Supreme Court since 1962, only ve are women and of the 1872 Advocates-on-Record, only 239 are women. The overwhelming visual, that greets one in courts across the country, is that of over-hurried, black-robed male lawyers. Not surprisingly then, India appointed its rst woman Additional Solicitor General as recently as 2009. Besides, women in litigation have fewer support measures such as materni benets and materni leave.Men still hold most of the top positions in the legal sector of the country. The narrative of success in law follows the professional trajectory of an ideal male lawyer. Women rarely nd a mention in Indian medias lists of legal superstars. The coverage of women lawyers is primarily focussed on women who have, against all odds, broken through the glass ceiling. While there are more women employed in the world, they still grapple with a working environment tailored around men and womens traditional social responsibilities. Such an approach fails to recognise that most employees would like to achieve a work-life balance that would help them straddle family and career. Inexibili at the workplace could compel talented women to opt out or slow down and could also perpetuate the gender stereope that women are primarily responsible for childcare. Under the garb of gender-neutral policies, women are expected to work the same number of hours as their male counterparts and not seek any licence or liber because of their children. They are expected to t within the mould of the ideal worker - inevitably a man, living the traditionally masculine biography of a breadwinner married to a homemaker.7 The maternal wall is a less-spoken-about bias that most women face. According to the International Labour Organization, as joint breadwinning becomes the norm, discrimination in employment on the basis of actual or potential materni has implications for the whole socie.8 This is an 5 Id at p.16.6 Ramo Devi Gupta, Advent of Women in the Profession of Law, at hp://; Justice A.D.Mane [Retd.], Womens Place at the Bar, at hp:// Joan C. Williams, Jessica Manwell, Stephanie Bornstein, Opt Out or Pushed Out? : How the Press Covers Work/Family Conict The Untold Story of why Women leave the Workforce, p. 8, The Center for Work Life Law, Universi of California, Hastings College of the Law, 2006.8 International Labour Conference Eigh-seventh Session 1999, Report V(1) Materni protection at work, Revision of the Materni Protection Convention (Revised), 1952 (No. 103), and Recommendation, 1952 (No. 95) hp:// that cannot be ignored as the number of women working throughout their child-bearing is escalating...9 We undertook this study to understand why such few women lawyers get to the top. Do they have to pay a motherhood penal? In what way does motherhood impact a womans career? What makes women lawyers stay? Do women who opt out or take a break do so out of choice or because of the inexibilities at work? What feasible measures can organisations adopt to retain talented women lawyers and also make the workspace more conducive for all?We believe this is the rst study in India that interrogates the presence of women lawyers in law rms, companies, and in litigation practice, with a view to understand the pressures that women face, and the changes required to make the workplace responsive to their needs. We examine the narratives of women who continue in the paid legal workforce. The study also examines exible work policies, economic incentives, and employer-created support structures that help retain women in the profession or lure them back into the profession.Some of the other questions we respond to are: How will the pro


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