Working in government is not a "soft" option for women lawyers and the work is just as demanding and challenging as that of the private sector, according to Astrid Haban-Beer, convenor of Victorian Women Lawyers.
Haban-Beer made the comments at the launch of the Women Lawyers in Government (WiG) network last week, an initiative sponsored by the Victorian Government Solicitors Office in a bid to facilitate the exchange of ideas, information and opportunities between women government lawyers.
"There's this general stereotype that a lot of women lawyers leave private practice and go to government because of perceived better working conditions," Haban-Beer told Lawyers Weekly.
"Obviously we support anywhere that's providing good working conditions and embracing flexibility but I would say all government lawyers are just as hard working and committed to their legal career as those who are working in private practice."
Haban-Beer added that the network would seek to debunk the myth that working in government is "soft", while also aiming to encourage women government lawyers to pursue networking opportunities.
"We've noticed that historically, a lot of lawyers working in government don't often come to many of the networking events that are happening for the [wider] profession," she said.
And even though government is one area of the legal profession that is overwhelmingly dominated by women, Haban-Beer believes that such networking initiatives are necessary for women government lawyers in getting ahead.
"Despite the very significant number of women who do work in government, the top positions are still largely occupied by men - so secretaries of department, general counsel, the Victorian Government Solicitor are men" she said.
"While there might be a lot of women lawyers working in government, what's happening to them? The same issues that face practitioners in private practice are facing women at the government level as well."
Victorian Government Solicitor John Cain welcomed the new network, noting that it will assist women lawyers to explore opportunities in the public sector.
The network was launched at the Victorian Department of Justice with more than 160 women lawyers from government departments and agencies present.