Encouraging To See More Women Coming Into Legal Field: Surabhi Agarwal, General Counsel

Surabhi Agarwal,
Keeping her family happy, a number of times she had to give up her job to take care of her baby. So, during the first 15 years, she had a lot of struggles on her end, shares General Counsel Surabhi Agarwal, proving that for women it is a tight rope walk in whichever field they choose.

Agarwal is a General Counsel with 25 years of experience. A General Counsel or GC is a lawyer. They conduct research on different laws and regulations file, draft legal documents, negotiate settlements, handle legal disputes and manage legal risk for their employer.

With decades of experience by her side, she is now all set to start a first of its kind firm, where she will provide outsourced general counsel support to mid-sized corporates and large-sized corporates.

Agarwal adds, “I don’t think in India fractional general counsel as a practice has really caught fire. In India mostly, full-time general counsels are hired and that leaves the mid-market with a huge sized gap. This firm focuses on making international quality accessible and affordable to the mid-market.”

We spoke to Surabhi Agarwal about a plethora of things, to understand how the situation for women in the legal domain is changing in India.

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Agarwal who was a member of a global legal leadership team of a fortune 500 MNC believes that a lot of women are coming into the legal field and they are doing extremely well. They are getting into leadership positions. She adds, “It is a very encouraging sign and without women economic and social progress is impossible.”

She confesses, “While I haven’t felt that I was discriminated against people around me did feel that there is a bias in my favour because I managed to get the highest increment or my promotions were faster and the growth path was very very quick.” However, she agrees, that at an unconscious level, women leaders are not taken as seriously as men leaders are. For instance, if a woman is a go-getter or very assertive she can be misunderstood as aggressive.

Gender Pay Disparity

Statistics and research show that the issue of gender-based pay disparity is more prevalent in India than in other countries. She agrees that the gender inequality that exists in the country indirectly pushes women to do dual labour of taking care of the family and the children and work at the same time or forces them to quit, in order to preserve their marriages, and thus women lag in the race.

Do Glass ceilings and Glass cliffs exist?

Agarwal agrees that a glass ceiling does exist, and that is why India had to bring in a law that mandates the presence of a woman director on a company’s board. She also speaks about the glass cliff where women often get appointed to very challenging positions, thus doomed for failure and ultimately costing women their job and reputation.

Watch Surabhi Agarwal talk about things you need to know before filing a Sexual Harassment Complaint: