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Accidental FeminismGender Parity and Selective Mobility among India's Professional Elite$
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Swethaa S. Ballakrishnen

Print publication date: 2021

Print ISBN-13: 9780691182537

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691182537.001.0001

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(p.132) It Is (Not Always) Difficult Once You Have a Family

Work, Life, and Balance

(p.131) Five Families
Accidental Feminism

Swethaa S. Ballakrishnen

Princeton University Press

This chapter traces the role of families and life course in determining the unlikely gender outcomes found in large law firms. The advantage of the legal profession is that the career trajectory allows for a more progressive work–family balance. In particular, women in elite law firms typically start their careers in their early twenties and are in a position to become partner in their early thirties — this timeline for promotion allows women to be in positions of power while they negotiate childcare and maternity leave, whereas women in other elite professions tend to be junior colleagues when they make agentic life-course choices and are penalized accordingly. Yet, the fact remains that the structural career trajectory in these law firms was not introduced to make women more competitive candidates for partnership, but instead, emerged as a response to a concentrated, high-growth legal services market. The chapter then highlights the ways in which this unprecedented success for Indian middle-class women in the workforce depends on two existing inequalities in the grander Indian system: a ready, caste-dependent labor force that supplies affordable housework support and childcare; and a penultimate generation of close female family members who are not in the workforce and are available to provide free and ready household support systems.

Keywords:   families, life course, legal profession, work–family balance, Indian elite law firms, women lawyers, Indian middle-class women, housework support, childcare

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