Welcome to the second instalment of our series for International Women’s Day “If I could say one thing”. In this week-long interview series, we are hearing words of wisdom and advice from three leading women in Intellectual Property.
In this instalment we are exploring “If I could say one thing to women working in a male-dominated profession”. Being in the minority, in any context and any setting, can feel isolating. Women working in male-dominated professions can face barriers unseen by their male colleagues and managers. These barriers can affect the ease of day to day work as well as the path to promotion.
We asked our interviewees for one piece of advice they have for women working in a male-dominated profession. We hope these answers provide a useful insight to both women and allies on the challenges working in a male-dominated profession can present, as well as advice for anyone currently navigating those challenges.
Kalpana Srinivasan is an IP litigation lawyer and Co-Managing Partner at Susman Godfrey. In 2020 Kalpana was named in the Top 100 Lawyers in America and the Top 10 Women in Litigation by Benchmark Litigation. Susman Godfrey is fiercely committed to growing and maintaining diversity, the firm has a Racial Justice working group which is “dedicated to improving diversity within the firm and advocating for racial justice in our community.”
“Remember, it’s a badge of honour”
If you are the only woman standing in court arguing, it’s a badge of honour that you have made it. Use that badge to give you confidence. Remember everything that you have overcome to get here. I hope that you can push away the negative thoughts and say to yourself “Wow this says a lot about me. If I’ve come this far it probably means I have the will to make it”. When I get up in a room full of lawyers, not a single other one of whom is a woman, not a single other one of whom is diverse, then – hey – I’ve done the hard part by getting here; everything’s got to be easy after this!
You are also doing something incredibly important simply just by being there. Sometimes you will not even realise that people are watching you, young women in your profession or women outside of your workspace. You may never speak a word to them, but you are influencing future generations. Rather than internalizing the fear that “Oh my gosh there is no one else like me here” try to remember that by being there you are manifesting change.
Line Køhler Ljungdahl
Line Køhler Ljungdahl is Executive Vice President, Chief Legal Officer, and member of Bang & Olufsen’s Executive Management Board. As one of the most iconic audio-video brands, Bang & Olufsen recognise “equality and diversity are the basis of true innovation and an enabler of success”.
I would say two things actually: ''Remember to speak up about your aspirations and take action.''
No one will promote you if you haven't expressed a wish to be promoted. One of the issues I see as a leader is that women have tendency to sit and wait for a promotion, while men are more likely to just go and ask for it. Change that, take action. Be very clear on what you want and obsess about bringing value to the business and your leader, as I believe that this is the way leaders in the business will acknowledge your contribution. I would encourage people not to obsess so much about titles but much more about how you can bring value to your business. Try to really understand where it is you want to go and then make a clear plan for how to get there – and insist that you get your leader’s help to achieve it.
Another issue, I’ve heard many women discuss – and experienced myself – is that it can be more difficult for women to raise topics in bigger meetings. Again, take action. In my career I’ve started to find relevant stakeholders (both women and men) and discuss points that I intend to raise in a meeting ahead of time and that way we can support each other to make sure everyone is heard. That does not only benefit us – but the whole team because we get all the different perspectives.
In general, I believe it is important to understand the business you are in and broaden your scope. If you have a good grasp of the business and the strategy that will enable you to bring value to colleagues in other teams. This will help you expand your offering in a way that no one is expecting. This leads to development and learning, which in turn, will help you grow.
Carolyn Herzog is EVP, General Counsel at Arm. Arm is committed to connecting its employees with the positive change they create for people, communities and the environment. Carolyn has taken leadership roles in women’s rights advocacy throughout her career.
“Men are not your enemy.”
Male managers and business partners have been my greatest allies. My husband is my best friend. But he does not always speak my language. We need to help translate for each other and bring each other along. If we are learning anything from the Black Lives Matter movement it is that we need to do a better job listening. As women, we have been telling each other for our entire careers how excluded we feel from conversations, how we feel that we have missed out on career opportunities because, while we were working (and working, and working) with our noses down, men were networking and got the promotion that we knew we deserved. Does this story sound familiar? I have heard it a thousand times! If we are not including men in our conversations and explaining – constructively – how they can help us, then we are the ones excluding them from the opportunity to help us. I have had great female managers, and I can honestly share that the worst manager I ever had, was a woman manager. I so wanted her to be the best – she was brilliant, and she spoke in poetic language how she was an advocate for women. In the end, she was my worst champion, and I didn’t want to believe it. It was her male boss, my ultimate leader, who was my sponsor and helped me get out of a terrible management situation. He ended up being my greatest mentor and champion of my career.
In the field of IP, I look around and question where the next generation of leaders are. In fact, women are less represented today than they were 10 years ago. Girls are not seeing themselves in our leaders and are therefore not choosing careers in STEM, including in IP. There is so much lost potential. The WIPO Global Innovation Index and Bloomberg indicate that the U.S. is losing its ranking as the top innovator. In particular, it is noted that the US continues to invest in innovation, but students will come to the US for training, and then go back to their home countries with a U.S. education to pursue their careers. This indicates that the US immigration system is not working to attract international talent and that retention is not working for international students. South Korea was ranked #1 in the Bloomberg review in 2020 and we are seeing European and Asian countries outrank the U.S. in the innovation rankings. This is not to say that these countries outrank the U.S. from a gender perspective but, if the U.S. is to be more competitive from an innovation stance overall, it should leverage ALL of its diverse talent.
The third and final part of the series will explore the topic ‘If I could say one thing to male allies’. Read the first instalment, “If I could say one thing to my younger self at the start of my career”, here.
We thank Emily Collins for this interview series with such an impressive group of women for International Women’s Day, as well as Amy Auger and Erin Turner for their help in interviewing and editing the series. Of course, we thank each of the amazing women we have interviewed for giving their time to help others to benefit from their wisdom.
Emily’s own passion for Inclusion & Diversity, equality and mental health has enriched our website many a times, see below.
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