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Gender Roles and Practical Career Choices for Women

Sneha Golecha (Law Student, KES Law College)


While studying in junior college, like any other student I was confused with a pool of career choices. Whatever opportunities came on my way I always believed and still believe in showing up, be it fashion blogging and fashion styling, a course in international relations, a course in public policy, speaking at college events on diverse topics ranging from gender to economics to law, or be it researching and presenting papers. I eventually chose to study law. I was never sure about it until I got into it and decided to give it a shot. But in the journey between choosing a career and finally choosing one I was perplexed and also a bit disturbed by the kind of prejudicial advice given and questions asked based on my gender.

First, while choosing streams, a relative advised me, “Be it any stream, just choose a career where a maximum of 3-4 years of study is required to attain a degree.” The rationale behind this was to meet the socially accepted cap of 25 years to get married. Then came another advice “you are a woman, after getting married you won’t be able to dedicate time to your career, soon you will have to rear children hence choose some 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. desk jobs or any less intellectually stimulating job would be a comfortable alternative”. Immediately I tried to re-route the conversation but it felt as if I was stuck in a loop. Then comes another bomb “see, you are woman dear, are you sure? How will you manage after marriage? Be practical”. As an 18-year old, I was irked that my queries were met with answers that weren’t even related to my questions instead all the advices solicited or unsolicited only revolved around a gender role.

After opting for law, I came across multifarious fields. I was extremely curious hence I started networking with every opportunity that I got. Once I happened to meet a practicing male lawyer at a family function and in a tone of curiosity I asked, “How is litigation as a field, what is it like to be in litigation?”. Of course, yet again, I got a completely unrelated answer, “Litigation is not for women, think again”. I politely excused myself from the conversation.

Just the other day while talking to my immediate senior at the law firm where I am presently interning, I enthusiastically happened to ask her about opportunities in counsel practice. She replied, “I too wanted to get into that, however, I was advised that law firms do not give briefs to lady advocates, they prefer men, also, my senior advised me that after marriage becomes it becomes all the more difficult to excel due to inconsistency in practice hence, I decided to stepped down” Yes, no wonder law is a male-dominated profession. Young women are discouraged at the very beginning from pursuing litigation and the same propositions in form of advice is passed in a cascading manner. It is a distressing reality of how women are made to unconsciously adopt debilitating belief systems due to constant reinforcement. Along with that, more women abstain from pursuing a career in litigation due to the infrastructure and environment at the courts, especially at the lower courts, which is not at all women-friendly. It’s high time that Indian courts should be made safe and comfortable for practicing lady advocates.

Having said that, no doubt the definition of a “practical career choice” for women differs from that of men. Because on one hand the society calls itself progressive but on the other hand it also demarcates lady like jobs, litigation for one was never as such considered a lady like job. A practical career choice for woman, directly or indirectly means having to consider preponderance of a gender role in all walks of life. They are taught that it is normal to compromise on building an identity post marriage. After all, your C.V. will be ruined dear women if you don’t know how to serve a bowl of dal properly.

I write this because I want to put forth a question that why not ask the same questions to men before choosing a career that whether they would be able to manage their career post marriage? I write this because I want young women to rethink and reconsider the patterns that either they have unconsciously adopted or are made to think about from a young age, because probably these questions have been passing on from generations and I dare to question these questions. Instead here are the questions that young women should be asked, “Where do your strengths lie?”, “How do plan to gain career capital?”, “What work gives you pleasure?”,” How do you think you can make a difference with your work?”.

It is very much a reality that career choices made by women are seldom considered seriously and somewhere or the other if you are woman probably you would have also heard that the eventual goal of a women is to marry and sit at home. It is vital to raise young girls capable enough to be able to decide their priorities for themselves instead of imposing a socially accepted set of priorities on them and teaching them how to adapt to gender roles.

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