In The Eyes
by Madhulika Iyer
While we say we live in a modern society, gender inequality is still evident in many professions, one of which is the legal profession. The legal field is one that has historically been dominated by men, usually confined to the elite and those who are ‘well off’. Throughout my time in law school, I have witnessed the extraordinary growth of many women lawyers in the legal field, as well as the rising movement of greater diversity in the field, paving the way for various groups of people to make their mark in the profession and on the legal landscape. However, almost unsurprisingly, there remains gender bias. Female lawyers are subject to various discriminatory practices and have to work more, fight their way through and struggle harder to prove that they are good if not better than their male colleagues. The challenges that female lawyers face in their professional lives are often multi-layered. It seems almost ironic that in a field such as the legal one, wherein the crux lies in providing justice to those isolated from it, these biases are placed in ways that cannot be held illegal yet exist so prominently. While it may appear that the issues faced by women range only from wage discrimination to sexual harassment, the reality is, it goes far deeper than that.
While at home, using the internet as a way to pass-time, I came across a platform called “Her Forum”, which aims to foster a community for women in law. This platform had conducted a series of interviews with some of India’s most eminent female lawyers, right from Zia Mody, Geeta Luthra, Nandini Khaitan, Ankita Singhania to many more. Watching almost all the interviews available, these luminaries provided an insight into their journey in this profession. Although inspiring, the aspect that caught my attention was the struggles they encountered early on in their career right until they occupied leadership positions, one of which is client confidence. Zia Mody elaborated upon how her senior once advised her to take free cases for one or two years, something that would never have been suggested to a male colleague. Nandini Khaitan too, accepting this fact, shared how women aren’t taken seriously even while occupying leadership positions, wherein clients have often asked if a senior partner will be joining the conference upon seeing only a female partner in the room.
Despite graduating from the best of schools, with the highest of grades and experience, these women illustrated the reluctance of clients, their hesitance, and how they’ve had to work twice as hard just to prove their worth. While some may argue that this is true for anyone entering the profession, women have borne the brunt to a greater extent. Although arbitrary, the sad truth is no policy, protest, or even an article such as this can change this discrimination.
Writing as a female student of law, I can only say I am grateful today to have such eminent female role models in the legal field to look up to, something they didn’t have when they were just starting out in their career. These women have paved the way for students like me, right from implementing policies such as maternity leave, granting that extra-flexibility to women in workplaces when need be, to working twice as hard in order to uphold the goodwill of women in the legal profession.
It is now evident that the legal fraternity, like any other, is home to gender inequality, stereotypes, and discrimination, it is often easy to lose sight of why one should choose or has chosen this profession, especially with the late nights and some of the mundane activities that come with it. That being said, the joy of watching your peers excel, observing their passion in their field through the articles they write, or actually watching them make a difference in someone’s life is indescribable. Throughout my years in law school, I have had the privilege to meet several professionals from this field, each of whom possesses the unique ability to reason and articulate opinions, a quality that binds us together. As lawyers, we might not be the most liked person in the room, however, the truth is we are one of the most required.
With respect to the inequalities, and as far as us women proving ourselves more goes, I believe we shouldn’t let aspects such as this drag us down or cause us to lose hope. That said, to all the women reading this blog, those times when you are faced with self-doubt, constantly second-guessing yourself, almost at the brink of giving up, remember you are not alone. During times such as this, especially while reading about the inequality still present in this profession, it is good to remind yourself about the value and change you can bring to someone’s life through the law. In reality, who knows when this bias will truly end? The sooner we start believing in ourselves, standing up for each other, and choosing to work under a supervisor who is invested in our growth and upliftment, the better!
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