Women often don't have it easy in the restructuring industry, a business dominated by men and marked by demands that don't always square with family life.

A recent sex-discrimination lawsuit filed against a prominent restructuring firm casts some of these difficulties in stark relief.

In April, a director at AlixPartners LLP, a high-profile adviser to bankrupt or struggling companies and their creditors, sued the firm for sex discrimination, saying the firm wrongly demoted her, discouraged her from applying for internal jobs and withheld her pay, all after she became pregnant.

A spokesman for the Southfield, Mich., company denied the claims. "We have treated, and continue to treat, Michelle Ross fairly and in compliance with the law," said spokesman Mitch Kent.

The lawsuit's allegations shine a light on the restructuring industry, one that remains largely controlled by male executives, especially at the highest levels. For instance, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis early last year, only about a dozen of the 100 largest U.S. law firms featured women as bankruptcy-practice leaders.

The disparity largely reflects that of corporate America. Only 16.9% of Fortune 500 board seats are occupied by women, according to a report earlier this year by nonprofit research firm Catalyst Inc.

But the urgent nature of corporate restructurings, in particular, which frequently require travel, can place even greater strain on men and women who are trying to balance work and family.

When a company finds itself in late-night negotiations with bondholders, trying to work out a deal before midnight deadlines to keep the firm out of bankruptcy, the key players must usually all be in the room. The requirements often make infeasible such common work-life-balance solutions as working remotely or flexible scheduling.

"The practice is emergency-room law," bankruptcy attorney Regina Stango Kelbon said in an interview last year. "You have to be there. You never know when," added Ms. Kelbon, co-chair of Blank Rome LLP's restructuring practice.

For some women who love working in restructuring but want to create a more manageable work-life balance, the answer has been moving into areas within the industry that don't have the "emergency" factor at every turn.

The judiciary, for instance, has emerged as a landing place for many women in restructuring. The percentage of female bankruptcy judges jumped to about 31% in 2013 from about 14% in 1993, according to the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts.

Judge Mary Grace Diehl was a bankruptcy lawyer before being appointed to the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Georgia in 2004, and has since discussed the work-life-balance difficulties of her old job. "The whole way the profession runs is very antifamily," she said.

For others, a logical move is to the claims-management industry, which processes claims, creditor communications and public-docket websites. Claims managers typically require less travel from their employees.

"This was my breath of fresh air," said Jennifer Meyerowitz, a former bankruptcy lawyer who left her practice last year to lead business-development efforts for Epiq Systems, a claims-management firm.

Ms. Ross's suit, filed in California state court, alleges that after she announced she was pregnant in late 2011, she asked about an opening for the firm's chief-marketing-officer job. A supervisor discouraged her, saying she "may want to dial it back for work-life-balance issues," the suit alleges. She also alleges that the company refused to reinstate her to her old job upon her return, and that male colleagues tried to undermine her in several ways, including allegedly changing computer settings so "emails sent by Ross would show the sender was 'Honey Boo Boo.' "

Ms. Ross alleges that after an "outstanding" performance review in early 2012—four months before she was set to go on maternity leave—a male executive told her that if she decided to return to the firm after her leave, "it's a chauvinistic place and will be hard to transition back in."

—Jacqueline Palank contributed to this article.

Write to Joseph Checkler at joseph.checkler@wsj.com