Gender diversity: talk held on women in legal profession

In a bid to address concerns about gender diversity in the judiciary, the Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy and the University of Oxford organised a panel discussion on ‘Women in the Legal Profession’ here.

Justice A.K. Sikri of the Supreme Court delivered a keynote address, emphasising the continued relevance of issues at hand. He stressed on the pivotal role of the legal profession in creating necessary change within itself so that it may foster change in society.

UK battled the same

Following this, University of Oxford Vice-Chancellor Professor Louise Richardson began the panel discussion by referring to how even the United Kingdom battled against institutional bias for a long time before women could enjoy some parity.

She narrated the tribulations of Cornelia Sorabji, the first woman to receive the Bachelor of Civil Law degree at Oxford University, setting the tone for other panellists.

Justice Indu Malhotra, the first woman to be elevated to Supreme Court judgeship from the Bar, recounted her experiences as a female litigator.

Referring to the legal profession as a “jealous mistress”, Justice Malhotra stressed how women had a tougher time striking the work-life balance.

Even the briefs woman lawyers receive are stereotypical, with undue stress on family matters, and lack of trust in engaging women in commercial matters.

She also remarked on the discomfort women face in networking, a skill that is in increasing demand for success in the profession.

Advocate Madhavi Diwan remarked on how she sees herself as a “mainstream lawyer” and not as a woman lawyer who has to be pigeonholed into specific legal roles and fields.

She also looked back at her experience as a young mother who had to take breaks as a result of maternity and faced considerable barriers in re-entering the practice.

Professor Lavanya Rajamani of the Centre for Policy Research said the onus for continuing disparity cannot be laid only at the feet of women and that there would have to be a more detailed investigation into the role that institutions play in propagating structural bias.

Senior advocate Arvind Datar suggested that changes need to be made at the level of appointment bodies, like the collegium and in judicial services exams, so that this may better translate into representation at all levels.

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Printable version | Oct 18, 2021 6:09:04 AM |

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