New Delhi, Nov 28 : While the number of women graduating from the leading law schools and working at junior levels in the legal profession is equal to their male counterparts, this does not translate to equal representation at workplace or later at higher positions.Their upward mobility is hampered by systemic discrimination.
Gender diversity is particularly significant in the legal profession where the presence of women plays a critical role in upholding the ideal of equality, fairness and impartiality of the justice system especially amongst disadvantaged groups.
This was stated by Justice Gita Mittal, Chief Justice, High Court of Jammu & Kashmir during her keynote address in the Constitution Day forum as part of the virtual global Conference on ‘Reimagining & Transforming the Future of Law Schools and Legal Education: Confluence of Ideas During & Beyond COVID-19′ organised by the Jindal Global Law School, O.P.Jindal Global university.
“The glass ceiling implies the existence of an impermeable barrier that blocks the vertical mobility of women.Below this barrier, women are able to get promoted, beyond this they are not.This ubiquitous glass ceiling obstructs women across jurisdictions and subjects them to unequal treatment all over the world,” Justice Mittal added.
Reflecting on the past, Justice Gita Mittal offered insights into the history of the legal profession and said that it is replete with regressive gender perspectives.
In recent times, India’s top law firms are said to have only 30 per cent women partners.A third of these firms have a gender ratio below 20 per cent.
“Out of the 673 sitting Judges of the High Courts in India, only 73 are women.I happen to be the only Chief Justice amongst the 28 High Courts of India.
In the 70 years since the Supreme Court was established, only eight women have been appointed as judges.
Currently out of the 30 Judges at the Supreme Court, only two are women.
In its over five decades of existence the designation of women as senior advocates in the Supreme Court is also deplorable.Gender biases are widely prevalent in law firms as well.
A study conducted with 81 women in law firms revealed that women were being allocated unchallenging work and forced to remain content with lower professional fees than their male counterparts and being denied benefits and promotions in corporate positions.
Moreover 74 per cent of the women interviewed felt that the employers had made little effort in promoting or mentoring women within the organization.Clearly women remain severely under-represented in the legal profession.” Justice Gita Mittal said.
C.Raj Kumar, Founding Vice Chancellor, O.P.Jindal Global University and Founding Dean of Jindal Global Law School, said, “One of the most pressing issues is that of diversity and to what extent leadership by women is going to change and impact the legal profession, legal education and the judiciary.A sharper focus on the role of women in law has been less examined.
“The question of representation and indeed, the participation of women in the legal profession in India has been a matter of many debates.At many law schools in India and overseas, at the time of entry, there are nearly 50 per cent female students but as we examine the legal profession itself there are huge disparities.The real question is to what extent we can shape the future of Indian democracy and the Indian legal profession by recognizing the challenge of the deeply institutionalized discrimination that is prevalent against women.