WIPR Influential Women in IP 2020
The lower numbers of women studying STEM
undoubtedly impacts the number of women who are
recruited to tech companies, but it doesn’t absolve
employers of the responsibility to “treat the women
they do have fairly”, Gabl Kratz says.
The same goes for law where, she believes,
women face many of the same challenges, including
unequal pay. This is particularly true of patent
law, which draws from a similar talent pool as the
When applying for in-house jobs at various tech
companies, Gabl Kratz says she has had internal
recruiters offer her a position at a below market salary,
and then “refuse to take my reasonable counteroffer
back to the hiring manager because it would
be ‘too much trouble’ to go through the negotiation
In another instance, a company posted for a fulltime,
in-house attorney position. After the final
round of interviews, the company offered Gabl Kratz
the job, but there was a catch—“instead of honouring
the formal requisition, the company changed the
job from permanent to a ‘temp-to-perm’ role”. This
allows the company to pay a much lower hourly wage
for three months and then decide whether to extend
the employment contract.
In addition to economic inequality, throughout
her career as a lawyer she has sometimes found the
culture to be unwelcoming. She cites the example of
a partner in a senior leadership position at a firm she
worked for, who was supposed to be her mentor.
“He was profoundly uncomfortable around
women,” Gabl Kratz recalls. “He would barely speak
to me, which of course harmed my ability to work
effectively with him. He treated me so differently
from how he treated the male associates that others
at the firm commented on it.”
After many quarters of strong positive reviews,
Gabl Kratz says the partner suddenly started to give
her poor ratings in every single category.
“I asked for specific examples of my supposedly
‘poor’ performance, and he could not provide a
single one,” she says.
Gabl Kratz’s account is important, because
amid talk of leadership initiatives and pipelines,
it’s important to remember that among the biggest
obstacles to diversity is barefaced sexism.
It’s vital to address the lower numbers of women
studying STEM subjects, as well as other disciplines.
But the ‘pipeline’ doesn’t give employers the right to
wash their hands of responsibility for what happens in
their own organisations. It’s clear that Silicon Valley’s
diversity problem can’t be explained away by external
factors. The problem in tech, law, and anything else
for that matter, is not merely a statistical imbalance,
but also a culture of exclusion and sexism. l
Gabl Kratz emphasised that she is not authorised to speak on
behalf of any of her employers, but is speaking in a personal
capacity about her experiences.
SHUTTERSTOCK / MONSTAR STUDIO
Others say tech should not get off so easily.
“It’s not just that the pipeline is broken,” says
Percival’s colleague and Women Who Code interim
CEO Joey Rosenberg, who points instead to factors
such as tech companies’ “unconscious bias” in the
hiring and treatment of women.
Her organisation focuses on providing career
support to women working in the tech sector. “We
deal mostly with women who are already there at the
tech companies—and they’re not staying,” Rosenberg
says, adding that “most don’t hit the ten-year mark”.
While it may be convenient for tech companies
to point towards a more generalised inequality in
STEM, this surely doesn’t exonerate them from
responsibility for the negative experiences reported
by women who have made it through the pipeline.
This is a good juncture to stop and acknowledge
that sexism is not just tech’s problem—undoubtedly
many women working in law, IP, and virtually any
industry for that matter, will recognise their own
experiences in what Percival and Rosenberg say about
the obstacles facing women in tech.
Diane Gabl Kratz, senior IP counsel at a tech
company, has been practising IP law in Silicon Valley
for more than a decade. She has worked in private
practice, representing clients including global tech
companies, and now holds a senior in-house position.
Gabl Kratz is herself a product of the STEM pipeline.
“As a woman studying physics at Cornell
University, I had only good experiences there—but
there were very few of us,” she recalls.
Diversity in the workplace
We deal mostly
at the tech
Women Who Code