CHALLENGES FACED BY INDIAN WOMEN LEGAL PROFESSIONALS

SUMMARY REPORT

A REPORT BASED ON A STUDY CONDUCTED IN DELHI, MUMBAI, AND BANGALORE AMONG WORKING MOTHERS IN THE LEGAL PROFESSION
The study was conducted by Rainmaker between February, 2011 and October, 2011.

ABOUT THE AUTHORS
SONAL MAKHIJA SWAGATA RAHA

Sonal has an M.Sc. in Law, Anthropology, and Socie from the London School of Economics and Political Science. She is presently working as a freelance legal consultant on public policy issues in Bangalore. Her areas of concern include violence against women, child rights, the ban on bar dancing in Mumbai, and privacy law.

Swagata graduated from the West Bengal National Universi of Juridical Sciences and has been working as a human rights law researcher for over six years. She has worked with the South Asia Human Rights Documentation Centre, New Delhi and Lawyers Collective in Bangalore. She also taught at the School of Law, Christ Universi , Bangalore. She is presently working as a legal consultant and an independent researcher on human rights law and is based in New Delhi.
C O N TA C T : J U LY 2 0 1 2

C O N TA C T : J U LY 2 0 1 2

sonal.makhija@gmail.com

swagataraha@gmail.com

ABOUT RAINMAKER
Rainmaker is a learning, content, and technology company focused on the legal ecosystem. It also conceptualised and manages the All India Bar Examination, India’s first benchmark test for practising law. Rainmaker manages myLaw.net, the first web platform to provide learning solutions and content covering the Indian legal landscape. Along with its a liate, Vahura, Rainmaker provides a combination of market leading capabilities across online learning, content, training, test management, technology solutions, and talent management, to assist in the transformation of legal people everywhere.

In 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 a er Liberalisation. Trans-national transactions and the global interest in India have generated substantial work for Indian lawyers. The interest shown by foreign lawyers to enter the Indian legal market is a further validation of this growing demand, although India is one of the few markets that remain closed to foreign lawyers. The traditional Indian legal profession also continues to resist change but largely unsuccessfully. These restrictive conditions have failed to hamper the growth of small Indian law firms headed by young emerging lawyers, which are sprouting in metros and

even mini-metros on a regular basis. The corporate legal sector in India, however, is still small in comparison to its more robust and large counterpart – litigation services. The image of a lawyer in India, according to Galanter, pically conjures up a courtroom lawyer as opposed to a business adviser.1 Yet, this observation sits uncomfortably today with the growth of full-service law firms in metropolitan cities and the se ing up of full-service legal departments in large companies. Along with the growth of in-house corporate legal teams, the legal profession has acquired two faces, with the corporate side being led more by economic and merit-based considerations. The education sector has witnessed the most

significant impact of the growth of the Indian legal market. There has been a surge in the establishment of law schools empowered to award the five-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 would translate to more women partners, more women designated as senior advocates, and more women as general or head legal counsel. 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

1 M., Galanter (1969), “Introduction: The Study of the Indian Legal Profession”, 3 LAW &SOC’Y REV 201, 202 (1968-69), Universi of Chicago [Online] at h p://marcgalanter.net/Documents/lawyersandlawfirms.htm. We realise that the growth of law firms in India is restricted to metropolitan cities, and does not necessarily hold true for towns and districts.

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 sacrifice (in terms of having children) in the quest for success”4 and that “[w]ith fewer women making it from junior to 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 The data from the above-mentioned report suggests that a woman’s career growth and opportunities in a country like India are

severely a ected during the initial years of her career. This in turn a ects the representation of women at senior levels. Why do women in India leave the paid workforce at an early age? It could be that women face greater challenges in the Indian market, as opposed to their other Asian counterparts. This especially rings true for women lawyers who are o en expected to work long hours, and may not necessarily have adequate child-care support. In 1921, the Allahabad High Court enrolled Ms. Cornelia Sorabji, thus paving the way for the entry of women into the legal profession.6 More than eight decades later, few women have reached the upper echelons of the

profession in the public gaze. Most women still grapple with a working environment tailored around men and women’s traditional social responsibilities. Such an approach fails to recognise that most employees would like to achieve a work-life balance that would help them “combine family and career”.7 Inflexibili at the workplace could compel talented women to opt out or slow down and could also perpetuate the gender stereo pe that women are primarily responsible for childcare. The courtrooms, like corporate boardrooms, are a gendered space. The overwhelming visual is that of over-hurried, black-robed male lawyers, who dominate courtrooms across the country. The list of apex court Senior Advocates and Advocates-on-Record only confirms this.

Communi Business, Gender Diversi Benchmark for Asia, 2011, p. 5 h p://www.communi business.org/images/cb/publications/2011/GDBM_2011.pdf Communi Business, Gender Diversi Benchmark for Asia, 2011, p. 13 h p://www.communi business.org/images/cb/publications/2011/GDBM_2011.pdf Communi Business, Gender Diversi Benchmark for Asia, 2011, p. 6 h p://www.communi business.org/images/cb/publications/2011/GDBM_2011.pdf Communi Business, Gender Diversi Benchmark for Asia, 2011, p. 16, h p://www.communi business.org/images/cb/publications/2011/GDBM_2011.pdf Ramo Devi Gupta, “Advent of Women in the Profession of Law”, at h p://www.allahabadhighcourt.in/event/AdventOfWomenInTheProfessionMrsRDGupta.html; Justice A.D.Mane [Retd.], “Women’s Place at the Bar”, at h p://mshrc.maharashtra.gov.in/Speech/upload/file%2051.pdf 7 Felice N. Schwartz, “Women as a Business Imperative”, Harvard Business Review on Women in Business, 2005, p. 159 at 179-180.
2 3 4 5 6

Of the 397 advocates designated as Senior Advocates in the Supreme Court since 1962, only five are women and of the 241 Advocates-on-Record, only 55 are women. Women do not constitute even ten per cent of the Senior Counsels or Advocates-on-Record. India appointed its first woman Additional Solicitor General as recently as 2009. Besides, women in litigation have fewer support measures such as materni benefits and materni leave. Men still hold the top positions in the legal sector of the country. The narrative of success in law still follows the professional trajectory of an ideal male lawyer. Women rarely ever make it to the lists of India’s o en-ranked legal superstars. The stories of successful women professionals that appear in English newspapers and magazines focus either on

women who have, against all odds, broken through the glass ceiling, or those highly educated women who have opted out. Few focus on why women leave or return. Today there are more women employed in the world. As “joint breadwinning becomes the norm, discrimination in employment on the basis of actual or potential materni has implications for the whole socie .”8 According to the International Labour Organization, this is an area that cannot be ignored as the “number of women working throughout their child-bearing is escalating...”9 This implies that employers can no longer be indi erent to the parental obligations of their employees. We undertook this study to understand why such few women lawyers get to the top. In what way does motherhood impact a woman’s

career? Do they have to pay a motherhood penal ? What makes working mothers in the legal sector stay? Do women who opt out or take a break do so out of choice or because of the inflexibilities at work? What feasible measures can organisations adopt to retain talented working mothers and also make the workspace more conducive for all? We believe this is the first study in India that interrogates the presence of women lawyers in law firms, 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 outside the familiar narrative of personal choice and ‘the pull’ of familial obligations. The study also examines flexible work policies, economic

8 9

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) h p://www.ilo.org/public/english/standards/relm/ilc/ilc87/rep-v-1.htm 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) h p://www.ilo.org/public/english/standards/relm/ilc/ilc87/rep-v-1.htm

incentives, and employer-created support structures that help retain women in the profession or lure them back into the profession. We have a empted to respond to some of the other questions that plagued us during the course of this study: Will the next decade witness more women Senior Advocates and more women partners? Will more women break the ‘maternal ceiling’ to reach the top ranks of the profession? How will the profession evolve to assimilate women, as opposed to, accommodate them? Should the profession alter its expectations and methods of evaluation? What would it take for an equivalent number of women to fill the leadership positions? The study does not seek to reinforce the already known facts with respect to the

representation of women, but seeks to provide diversi solutions. Based on the responses and recommendations of women lawyers, the report delineates the best practices that would help law firms, companies, and other employers retain its female legal talent. We hope that this report will be carefully considered by employers, managements, and the Bar Council of India, and will prompt them to devise positive measures and work practices to make the work place woman-friendly. |

This report is based on the research we conducted between February 2011 and October 2011. We contacted 150 women lawyers for the study of which 81 women completed the survey. The survey was administered online to women lawyers in New Delhi, Mumbai, and Bangalore. Since we had limited access to women in litigation, we made visits to the Delhi High Court, the Karnataka High Court, and the Bangalore Ci Civil Court to reach out to them.

81 women lawyers completed a comprehensive online survey form that sought information on their employment history, the work-life policies in their organisations, materni policies, the impact of motherhood on their careers, and an assessment of their employer’s policies and working conditions.

29.2% Law firms (24 women from 16 law firms) 26.8% Companies (21 women from 19 companies) 35% Litigation (29 women)

36.6% BANGALORE

6% N.G.O.s and Academic Institutions (5 women) 2.4% Government (2 women)

48.8% NEW DELHI

9.8% MUMBAI

The women who worked in law firms belonged to small to big national full-service law firms. Similarly, for corporations, the women participants worked in the legal department of big corporations. Of the 81 women, 10% of the women from law firms, companies, and those engaged in litigation were on a break at the time of participating in the study.

WOMEN IN LAW FIRMS

As for companies, 33% were junior lawyers with less than seven years of experience. While 24% of the women were at a senior level with over fi een years of experience, 43% were at midlevel with eight to fi een years of experience.

16.7% Associates 33.3% Senior associates 20.8% Principal associates or Managing associates 12.5% Consultants 8.3% Partners 8.3% Proprietors 33% Junior level 43% Middle level 24% Senior level

33% of the women in law firms were senior associates and 21% were principal associates while 17% were partners or proprietors.

With respect to litigation, approximately 55% were independent practitioners and 21% were a ached to a senior lawyer. Two were working in the litigation unit of a law firm.

GENDER BASED QUESTIONS DURING INTERVIEWS
80 60 40 20 0
50% 33% 62%

Respondents also shared that networking, which is a crucial ingredient of business development and is particularly necessary for those in litigation appears to be a predominantly male domain. Several women litigators stated how they lost out on clients and work because of not being seen in the corridors and courtrooms during their materni break. On the whole, 36% of the respondents stated that they had encountered gender bias at some point during their career.

Questioned about marital status

Questioned about children

Questioned about personal commitment

50% of women had faced questions on marital status and 62% had been questioned about their children during job interviews. 50% of the women who had faced such personal questions felt that their response impacted the outcome of the interview.

PARITY IN REMUNERATION
Yes, there is pari No, there is no pari Not sure

90 80 70 60 50 40 30 20 10 0
8% 21% 14% 5% 38% 38% 29% 23% 14% 57% 71% 81%

In this graph, “Others” represents N.G.O.s and government employees.

Law firms

Companies

Litigation

Others

71% of the women in law firms and 81% of them in companies said that there is pari in pay between men and women lawyers in the same position. In contrast, the opinion of women in litigation was evenly split. One woman admi ed that she was hesitant about increasing her fee or demanding the same fee as her male peers for fear of losing clients. Another mentioned that as women are not considered primary breadwinners, clients get away by paying less to women lawyers.

BARRIERS AT WORK

An overwhelming majori of women consider structural issues such as the lack of flexible hours and day care facilities as a critical barrier. It is debatable whether men would include factors like lack of day care as a hindrance to career advancement. • 68% of the women ranked marriage as a barrier. This can be a hurdle for most women, especially in a traditional socie like India, where familial obligations are unequally placed on women. Further, the lack of work policies that encourage men to shoulder parenting responsibilities, places the burden entirely on women. Such policies endorse the gender stereo pe that childcare is primarily the woman’s responsibili . While childcare and family responsibilities may be personal pressures, they translate into barriers if policies do not take into account the needs and requirements of working fathers and mothers. This is evident as 69% of women rated materni policies as a problem area. 52% rated problems with colleagues as a barrier. Although di erences with colleagues are encountered by both men and women, the impact could be adverse for women in particular when they take a break from work during materni care.

0

10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100
90%

Lack of flexible hours

Lack of day care

85%

Pressures to start a family Absence of women in management Lack of a good materni policy Problems with superiors

77%


75%

69%

69%

Marriage

68%

Sexism

58%

Problem with colleagues

52%

WAS THE TRANSITION FROM MATERNITY TO WORK EASY?
Yes No

70 60 50 40 30 20 10 0
33% 24% 42% 48% 41% 59%

Law firms

Companies

Litigation

As the above graph indicates, women in companies found the transition from materni

break to work easier than women in law firms and litigation.

WHAT ARE THE FACTORS THAT MADE THE TRANSITION FOR WOMEN DIFFICULT?
40 30 20 10 0
31% 25% 13% 12% 12%

Circumstances were created that compelled one to quit

Felt out of touch with the latest developments in law

Struggling to clock-in a regular work day

Boss was reluctant to allocate important client work

Felt undervalued

Alarmingly, a significant number of respondents stated that circumstances were created to compel them to leave the organisation.

YES, MATERNITY BREAK HAD AN ADVERSE IMPACT ON CAREER
80 70 60 50 40 30 20 10 0
20% 43% 52% 75%

Respondents working in law firms appear to be the worst a ected, followed by women in litigation. 21% of respondents in law firms mentioned that they had lost out on their promotion despite being due for one. One of them mentioned having lost out on a partnership. For others, it delayed the assumption of new responsibilities or led to reduced involvement in strictly legal or transaction-based work. Women in litigation suffered substantially as their peers got ahead and they lost out on clients who preferred to opt for lawyers who were available. Consequently, their absence a ected their earnings.

Law firms

Companies

Litigation

N.G.O.s

I S YO U R E M P L O Y E R E M PAT H E T I C T O W A R D S T H E N E E D S O F W O R K I N G PA R E N T S ?

RATING EMPLOYER'S UNDERSTANDING OF WORKING PARENTS' NEEDS
Mothers Fathers

50 40 30 20 10 0
15% 33% 31% 27% 29% 4% 4% 38%

8%

8%

Excellent

Good

Average

Fair

Poor

The respondents rated their organisations on sensitivi , flexibili , childcare assistance, and diversi to ‘Excellent’. •

programmes on a scale that ranged from ‘Poor’

More than 60% of our respondents rated the organisations they were working with as largely understanding about their needs. In contrast, 38% of the respondents rated the response to the needs of working fathers as being average. We did not interview male lawyers for the purpose of this research. The above graph is based on the perception of women.

H O W W O U L D YO U R AT E T H E M E A S U R E S A D O P T E D BY YO U R E M P L O Y E R I N E N C O U R AG I N G W O R K - L I F E B A L A N C E ?

ENCOURAGING WORK-LIFE BALANCE

OPENNESS TO EMPLOYEES WORKING FLEXIBLE HOURS WITHOUT BEING PENALISED FOR IT
40 30 20

40 30 20 10 0
15% 6% 10% 33% 37%

33% 25% 19% 6% 17%

10 0

Excellent

Good

Average

Fair

Poor

Excellent

Good

Average

Fair

33% rated their employers’ performance as good in instituting measures that encourage work-life balance and a small percentage (15%) felt that their employers’ performance was excellent. If we analyse the data sector-wise, approximately 42% of respondents working in law firms and 81% working in companies mentioned that their organisations had introduced measures to promote work-life balance. As is evident, 53% rated their employers as average and below on this parameter.

48% of the respondents rated their organisations’ openness to o er flexibili and work from home options without any penalisation as being average or fair or poor.

Poor

HOW WOULD YOU RATE THE CHILDCARE ASSISTANCE PROGRAMMES OFFERED BY YOUR EMPLOYER?
50 40 30 20 10 0
6% 10% 15% 19%

HOW WOULD YOU RATE THE WOMEN LEADERSHIP PROGRAMMES OFFERED BY YOUR EMPLOYER?
50 40 30 20 10 0
10% 15% 13% 19% 42%

50%

Excellent

Good

Average

Fair

Excellent

Good

Average

Poor

Respondents have been largely unanimous in their emphasis on the need for employers to provide a crèche. The support from employers in this regard has been inadequate. 69% of respondents rated their employers below average on this parameter and 15% rated it as average.

31% of the respondents stated that a mentorship programme existed in their organisations. In some organisations however, it was confined to new entrants. 74% of the respondents rated their organisations as average and below with respect to women leadership programmes.

Poor

Fair

RECOMMENDED DURATION OF MATERNITY LEAVE

RECOMMENDED DURATION OF PATERNITY LEAVE

11.52% 12 weeks 3.84% 16 weeks 56% 6 months 17% 1 year 9.61% Others

7% 7 days 26% 15 days 52% 1 month 11% 3 months 4% 6 months

We asked our respondents to share their thoughts on how workplace policies could be modified to promote be er working conditions for working mothers. The recommendations above are based on the responses received from them on the ideal duration for paid materni and paterni leave that the employer should provide.

WHAT FACTORS CAN HELP CHANGE NEGATIVE PERCEPTIONS TOWARDS WORKING MOTHERS?

100 90 80 70 60 50 40 30 20 10 0
94.23% 88.46% 86.53% 76.92%

Engouraging all employees to maintain a life-work balance by discouraging working beyond 8 hours

Providing the option of working from home to all employees

Allocating work responsibilities to a larger team so as to not burden one or two individuals with excess work

Providing working fathers similar flexibili as women

WHAT FACTORS WOULD MAKE THE TRANSITION OF WOMEN FROM MATERNITY LEAVE TO WORK EASY?

80 70 60 50 40 30 20 10 0
54% 60% 62%

79%

79%

Emergency child care backup centre

Work re-orientation

Not being compelled to travel

Option of flexible hours

Flexibili to work from home

WHAT MEASURES CAN BE ADOPTED BY EMPLOYERS TO MAKE THE ENVIRONMENT CONDUCIVE FOR WORKING MOTHERS AND TO PROMOTE WORK-LIFE BALANCE?

90 80 70 60 50 40 30 20 10 0
69% 62% 71% 85% 87%

Option to take a sabbatical and rejoin work without it a ecting your career growth

Option to work part-time

Child-care facilities, like creche

Option of working from home

Flexible hours

WHAT FACTORS WOULD MAKE COURTROOMS CONDUCIVE FOR WOMEN IN LITIGATION?
0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100

The litigation workspace is very di erent from that of law firms and companies. Most of our respondents were independent practitioners and had li le formal support in the form of paid materni leave or support from colleagues. In order to understand how women lawyers could be encouraged to join court practice, we asked our respondents to rank measures that they feel should be introduced to make courtrooms conducive for women in litigation. • In addition to the graph, 93% of women lawyers felt that judges being accommodating and sensitive to pregnant women would make the court halls more conducive. Likewise, 79% of women lawyers felt that the sensitivi of their colleagues at the time of pregnancy, which could include assisting in taking adjournments or handling ma ers in courts, would make the practice more accessible for them.

Sanitised toilets for women on each floor

93%

Creche facilities

80%

Room for breast feeding

76%

Baby changing stations

72%

Li s in courts

66%

Ramps for easy ascend and descend

59%

ABOUT THE REPORT
The report is a culmination of nine months of field work and analysis. It maps the experiences of women lawyers in law firms, companies, and litigation and contains data on work-life balance, gender bias within the legal workspace, parental leave policies, transition from materni leave to work, and the rating of employers on their policies and practices. Based on the recommendations of the respondents, the full-length report o ers diversi solutions to aid employers in retaining talent and making the workspace conducive for working mothers. For the full report, contact us at genderdiversi @rainmaker.co.in.

The listing of the contents of the full report is as follows: Introduction Methodology Acknowledgments 1. 1.1 1.2 1.3 Profile of respondents Respondents across sectors and cities Age profile and work experience Educational qualifications and annual income 1.4 Number and age of children 2. 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Women at work Factors that influence employment Work hours Reduced hours and part-time work Carrying work home and working on weekends

2.5 2.6 2.7 2.8 2.9 3. 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.7

Flexibili at work Work-life balance Sabbaticals and their repercussions Mentorship Is the legal workspace gendered? Materni benefit policies and the impact of motherhood on the career Impact of pregnancy on career Parental leave policies Extension of materni leave Break a er materni leave Resumption of work Transition from materni to work Impact of motherhood on career

4.3 Childcare assistance 4.4 Diversi programme 5. 5.1 5.2 5.3 Concluding observations and recommendations Duration of paterni leave Factors that can help change negative perceptions towards working mothers Factors that would make the transition of women from materni to the work force easy Measures that can be adopted by employers to make the environment conducive for working mothers and to promote work-life balance Need to reassess parameters for promotions Factors that would make courtrooms conducive for women in litigation

5.4

5.5 4. Assessment of employers 4.1 Empathy towards parenting responsibilities 4.2 Flexibili and work-life balance 5.6

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