Work/Life Balance: A Struggle for Women
By: Nicole Salemi
Maintaining a work life balance in the legal field is proven to be a challenging one. Being an active part of a family seems next to impossible when most legal professionals bank around 200 hours a month; that doesn’t leave much time for soccer practice, piano lessons or Sunday brunch. This greatly affects both men and women in the legal industry, however it seems that women have to face the decision of whether to start a family or focus solely on their careers.
According to The Law Times News, “For women lawyers, (but not typically for men), having children, especially more than two children, is often perceived poorly by employers.”
Women are faced with the fact that if they decide to take maternity leave, they are jeopardizing their careers by missing important cases and missing opportunities for career advancement. Further, returning to work after maternity leave leaves women being questioned about their loyalty to the firm by colleagues and management.
On the other hand, many men feel that paternity leave is out of the question because they feel it would portray the message that they are not committed to the grueling career they once signed up for. This leaves women with the responsibility for most of the “balancing”, as men are not seen to need to be bothered with that concept.
While women’s rights in the workplace have progressed significantly over the last 50 years, women are still faced with many of the responsibilities at home. This forces her to either switch from full time to part time hours or quit altogether. However, it is frowned upon for men to work part time in order to balance work with home life (see Successfully Juggling Work and Family: Tips for Lawyers)
To buffer the issues stated above, Slaw offers Simple Steps to Support Women Lawyers Returning From Maternity Leave, which include:
- offering a gradual return to work schedule
- assigning an associate to keep in touch with while away
- mentoring circles and women’s forums