While you would believe that discrimination against female barristers is a thing of the past, unfortunately it is prevalent in the industry even today. While more females are now choosing to take on the demanding work role of a barrister, there are many issues they have to face in their daily life.
Let’s have a look at some of these issues, so that you can be aware of them and try to find out some possible solutions for them before entering the professional line.
Underestimation: Although there are several female barristers who have made their name in the field of law, they are still considered under qualified and not suitable for the role. Females are often not taken seriously, even when they have more education and credentials than males. Women barristers, especially the young ones, are usually treated as secretaries, students or paralegals. You would commonly see male seniors calling them by names like sweetie and honey.
Gender discrimination: Women usually have to face a lot of gender discrimination, especially in the legal profession. Although females are often treated equal at junior levels, they often remain underrepresented at senior levels like barristers. Most people assume that females are soft and may not be able to manage a complex legal issue or an aggressive communication or negotiation. Traditional stereotyping based on their gender poses a lot of problems for female barristers, not only at the hands of male barristers, but at the hands of their clients too.
Sexual harassment: Believe it or not, although female barristers are the sentinels of law, they too are not left untouched with sexual harassment at workplace. In fact, certain factors make them even more susceptible to this issue than others, especially frequent need to travel, long working hours, etc. Sexual harassment is inclusive of any request for sexual favours, any unwanted sexual advances, and any physical or verbal conduct that is sexual in nature. Male lawyers often manipulate gender issues to get an edge during trials. You would commonly see males making comments on the barrister’s personal appearance with an aim to threaten her.
Wage gap based on gender: Although females are paid less than males in almost every profession, female barristers earn a lot less as compared to males, sometimes as less as 40-50%. Women working at top positions are also subject to wage inequality based on gender. One common reason for this is that males are able to attract more clients due to their network of like-minded males with other law firms. Even if a woman is more knowledgeable and competent than her male counterparts, she has to face huge inequality in wages in the legal profession.
Work-life imbalance: Being a female barrister requires unpredictable hours of working, due to which they may take it as a challenge to keep a balance between their social, family and professional life. While males are not questioned for giving preference to their career over their family, females have to face scrutiny and questions from their relatives and society. While more and more women are now opting to work from home or work part-time, they still need to create a plan so that they can take care of both.
Health issues: Being a female barrister is stressful but when you are facing so many discriminations based on your gender, it causes even more stress. Long working hours along with so much stress can have negative effects on your overall physical and mental health. That is why more women involved in this profession suffer from depression than males. Chronic stress can lead to several other physical health issues as well in female barristers.
The best thing is that you are not alone. If you are experiencing discrimination, low wage, work-life imbalance and criticism based on your gender, and then there are strong chances that other females working around you must be experiencing something similar. With support of each other, you can overcome these challenges and emerge as a successful career woman who can shut off all these challenges for the next generations.