Why don't Women in the Law Return to Work: An Interview with Neha Kashyap, AZB & Partners
- Vidya Raja
- Back to Work, Weekend Reads
- 15 Apr 2017
Competitive, aggressive, cut-throat – these are some of the words that are often used to describe the Legal industry. Keeping this in mind, I set out to understand how this industry perceives women who are looking to re-enter the workspace after a sabbatical. I spoke to Neha Kashyap, a lawyer by training who currently heads the business development vertical at AZB & Partners. She is a mother to a four-year-old girl.
Q. The Legal industry is known to be a demanding one. Long hours, and many conference calls are a given. How do women make it work? Is it possible to even dream of maintaining a work-life balance in this scenario?
A. I think everyone has their own parameters to measure IF they have it all. I personally feel I do truly have it all- simply because I worked towards it. Whatever I have, I put in every bit of my sincere effort into it. There are times when I don't have the energy to put in any effort- there are breaking points, but I breathe, rest up and get back on my feet again.
We judge ourselves constantly, and also let the guilt of leaving our baby at home, engulf us. I feel guilty too but I don't let that guilt take over. I don't rate myself as a mother or as a working professional.
Q. You have been a part of various organizations. Can you tell us how perceptions change when women come back to the workspace post childbirth or a sabbatical?
A. I was fortunate to be working in an organization where your work spoke louder than everything else. It was never about what time you walk in and what time you punch out - it was about getting the work done.
Q. How open are established law firms to hiring women, post a sabbatical?
A. I don't think too many women are approaching law firms post-sabbatical. This, I think, is owing to a perception that corporates have better infrastructure to cater to women who are looking to get back. Corporates have simply put in more effort to let the world know that they are looking forward to meeting more women who want to get back to work.
However, law firms haven't spoken enough - or I would say, they haven't been asked the question.
Q. Very often one hears about the pay cut that women are subjected to when they are getting back into the workspace. Is there a way to deal with this?
A. It really depends on whether you are taking on a similar profile that you had before you quit, if yes - have you kept yourself updated on the subject? If you are looking to take on a different profile, there will be a gestation period.
My point is, the pay cuts are not severe, but they will happen. Don’t let that be a deciding factor for you to get back.
Get back, prove your worth to yourself, and trust me the money will always follow!
Q. What has your experience been like after you had your daughter?
A. I am from Ranchi and I work in Mumbai, but fortunately, in India, we can get more access to help. I stayed at home for over a year and continued working from home, post which I had established trust with my child's nanny. It took some time for us to adjust but all of us did well.
Q. Does having a woman at the helm of things make it easier or tougher?
A. It definitely makes it easier - it did for me. I work with a boss who is extremely empathetic towards each of our situations. I am a single mother on the ground as my husband is in the army. My boss, who is an extremely busy lawyer, has somehow always remembered that my baby is waiting at home. When you don't lose that human touch, everything falls into place.
I feel all of us should keep the E.Q. (Emotional Quotient) high, I.Q. is high anyway!
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Vidya Raja is a qualified lawyer, experienced in legal practice across corporate, civil and family law. She also contributes to various publications on subjects ranging from short works of fiction, women and child rights, travel, motherhood, and law. At present, however, most of her time and energy is spent in raising her two young boys and ensuring that their abundant energies are expended in as positive a way as possible.