While growing up, I was an ambitious child. I always dreamed of pursuing a profession in the corporate world. When I chose to study law, many of my well-wishers and good Samaritans commented, “You will be a lawyer? Oh my god, people will be scared of you. Nobody will marry you!”
As women, our role is often classified as being a child-bearer. To my surprise, a lot of people, even in modern society feel that the purpose of a woman’s life is to get married and have children. A woman with a job is like icing on the cake. If a woman wants to have a career, it should be family-friendly such as a teacher, with an option to work remotely or part time. For a woman to be a lawyer is like resigning herself to being perceived as aggressive, cut-throat, non-empathetic and cold. On the other hand, a man choosing to pursue law would be perceived as a go-getter, formidable and ambitious. Society has stereotyped roles for men and women and transcending these is an uphill task.
After law school, I worked for a top-tier law firm in Delhi. But soon I was hungry for more. I wanted to grow in my profession, engage in international transactions, work and live in a multi-cultural society. I decided to pursue Masters in Law and was elated when I received an offer from an Ivy League school in the US. It was a dream come true! My parents were proud of me and fully supported me. Nevertheless, what followed is the pouring unsolicited advice from my so-called well-wishers. Instead of congratulating me, someone actually said (in good humor, ofcourse), “Beta (child), if you pursue Masters, you will be so overqualified. This will create a lot of problems for your parents in finding a match for you.”
Being a first-generation lawyer and paving my way in a profession dominated by the old boys’ club, I have worked hard to prove myself. In addition to my professional challenges, I have had to steel myself against criticism and judgment of society. Luckily, my parents always understood my drive and ambition and have supported me relentlessly. I believe that women can do anything a man can do and more. Everyone is entitled to pursue their goals, whether it is a man who wants to be a stay-at-home father or a woman who dreams of commanding the boardroom.
The lesson learnt is to never let someone else define your role and purpose in life. You make your own life and just because you are a woman, you never need to choose between a career and family. Just like a man, you can have both.
Make way for yourself, because this is your life!
About Anika Narula
Anika works in an Investment Bank in New York. She pursued her Masters at Columbia Law School and her first law degree from Symbiosis Law School, Pune. She lives in New York with her husband. She enjoys good food, travelling, dancing and EDM.