Jane Glover Barrister – Mediator – Adjudicator

women in IP


Who is coming along to the inaugural women in IP casual catch up event?  It is at Lula’s at the Auckland Viaduct from 5.30pm on 10 September 2019 – big thanks to Laura Carter for getting this organised.

In celebration, I thought I would post about some of the practical, tangible obstacles that face women in the law – leaving aside for now attitudinal issues such as unconscious bias.  

leaky networks

The leaky pipeline is an observable, documented phenomenon.  We lose far too many women lawyers from the profession.  That has obvious implications for the women who leave, and for the profession which loses those talents and skills.  But it also creates issues for the women who remain.  Disproportionately, it is those women’s friends and colleagues who have disappeared.  This can make the profession lonelier – fewer lunch dates!  – but also means that important networking opportunities are circumscribed.

unhelpful tax structures

In order to work as a barrister I have only a few completely unavoidable overheads.  For me, the absolute bare essentials are: a practising certificate, insurance, a computer, and someone to look after my children.  Three of these items are completely tax-deductible.  Yet the fourth – childcare – is not, and that is the one that impacts disproportionately on women. 

I often sigh when I think of the “nice-to-haves” that – depending on the audacity of your accountant – can be claimed against tax, yet the significant expense of childcare is largely unrecognised by the tax system.

Also, family income-splitting tax policies would make it much more feasible to have two earners in the workplace, especially if one earns significantly more than the other.

making milk

I have had three children, each of whom I nursed for around one year, so believe me when I say I have a lot of breastfeeding and expressing stories.  Some I will save for over a glass of wine, but here are several for starters:

  • Expressing milk with a leaky breast pump on a beige, suede armchair in a borrowed Royal Commission office that didn’t have a lock;
  • Storing expressed milk in a shared kitchen refrigerator;
  • Expressing milk in tiny, cramped toilets in the bowels of the Waiheke ferry nicknamed the Coffin (it also had other names….);
  • Calling the High Court at Auckland to ask what facilities they had available so that I could breastfeed/express during a five-week trial (the staff were amazing). 

I mean, it’s really not been easy.  And because breastfeeding is seen as something intimate and private, we are supposed to somehow get it done invisibly and preferably magically so that no-one else needs to think about it, much less be inconvenienced by it.  In retrospect, I don’t know why I thought it was my problem to solve at an individual level.  I guess I was embarrassed, but really, this is a societal issue and any shame or embarrassment should never have been mine to bear.

career gaps

Having children or other care-giving responsibilities often comes with career gaps, and then the need to somehow find the confidence and energy to re-invent yourself again and again. 

It can be difficult to convince employers that you are still relevant and current and have something to offer.  From what I have seen, though, it is often even more difficult for women to convince themselves of those things.

Also, if the woman has a partner who hasn’t had a “gappy” career, then the chances are that her partner’s earning capacity will now outstrip her own.  If only one person in a couple is going to be working full-time, or only one person is going to focus single-mindedly on a high-powered career, it makes economic sense for this to be the higher-earning partner, and a cycle develops.

double shift

The loss of earning potential that arises as a result of career gaps can also entrench inequalities on the home front.  The person with the less lucrative career ends up doing more at home because this makes financial sense.  It’s hard to break out of those kind of arrangements once they become the family norm.

Who is responsible for keeping the kids’ nit population at acceptable levels?  Taking the ridiculous dog to the vet for her grass-allergy injections?  Booking hotels and holidays?  Making the morning coffee?  Serving on community groups?  Cooking for the bake sale?  (Full disclosure: all of these things happen in my household, but they do not all fall to me….)

and so…kudos to the battle-scarred

When I meet women who have succeeded in law over many years, I often wonder which potpourri of obstacles they have faced. 

Pretty much every senior woman lawyer I have ever known has an incredible drive, passion and commitment to her career, as demonstrated by the fact that she is still standing.  Just getting to the start line day after day often involves winning a whole host of ancillary battles.  Without wanting to detract from the kaleidoscope of burdens that others in our community must bear, well done to us!

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Jane Glover

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By Jane Glover
Jane Glover Barrister – Mediator – Adjudicator

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