WIPR Influential Women in IP 2020
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The categorisation of individuals due to gender, race, ethnicity or sexual orientation
doesn’t encourage equality and we should be working harder to inspire both men
and women to drive real change, says Karen Fraser of UDL Intellectual Property.
have been a patent attorney for more
than 15 years, specialising in technology,
media and telecoms. My career started in
Chennai, India, before I relocated to the
UK in 2006. As an Indian woman, I’ve experienced my
fair share of barriers to overcome in my career. I’ve had
a number of mentors during this time who have played
central roles in helping me progress to where I am today.
I’m proud to be part of this publication,
surrounded by others who are driving inclusivity. Yet,
I want to be recognised not for my gender, or where
I’m from, but for my achievements, held up to the
same standards as anyone else.
Bold ideas are now required to continue progressing
and my hope is that by evolving further we can inspire
great change, and this means continuing to push for
diversity in traditionally male-dominated industries,
making it normal for a mix of genders, ethnicities and
more to be present in all groups and at all events.
I couldn’t agree more with what Andrea Brewster,
lead executive officer of the IP Inclusive initiative,
said in the Chartered Institute of Trade Mark
Attorneys (CITMA) review February 2020 edition:
“More diverse and inclusive teams are not just
happier, they perform better.”
Our profession needs leadership and management
teams with the skills and knowledge to effectively
encourage and develop all people, irrespective of
gender or background. The action required by those
of us in current or future leadership positions to
achieve this doesn’t seem specific to female leaders,
so we should be working harder to engage and inspire
both men and women to drive real change.
More harm than good?
New research from the University of Edinburgh
(“Breaking Glass: Toward a Gendered Analysis of
Entrepreneurial Leadership” by Harrison, Leitch and
McAdam, 2020) suggests that a key barrier to female
success is women-only networking groups or events,
which might do us more harm than good.
While such women-only business networks aim
to connect and empower us to achieve our goals, are
they now outdated, inadvertently reinforcing the ageold
divisions that we seek to change?
I accept that, outside the business world, segregated
support groups relating to issues such as health may well
be relevant and are to be encouraged. Events targeting
girls and young women to consider careers in previously
male-dominated sectors are also hugely important.
the skills and
of gender or
SHUTTERSTOCK / JHENG YAO
In our profession, I believe that it’s up to us
“influential people” to lead boldly from the front, to
ensure that the most deserving people are always able
to reach the top. I know many women who feel the
same way—some even refuse to attend women-only
business events out of principle.
Our focus should be on breaking down traditional
business structures and environments. This means
ensuring a strong female presence at historically
male-dominated industry events and starting to
pervade exclusive networking groups. We also need
to spot instances of cultural bias and move towards
eradicating them. This could well start with moving
away from the women-only networks which serve to
In addition, such networks don’t support other
minority groups. No matter their gender, ethnicity,
sexuality or disability, everyone should be able to
achieve their goals. Since the legal sector is currently
dominated by men—the very people we’re unlikely to
reach with women-only networks and at “women in…”
events—we need to evolve towards a more inclusive
mindset. (I accept that “women in…” events are, in
theory, open to men, but the name suggests otherwise.)
There are some simple steps we can take, right
now, to inspire change and encourage inclusivity:
• Join inclusive business networks and attend
inclusive events. A true mix of people should
become the new normal.
• Use our positions of influence to have a positive
effect on our younger colleagues by supporting and
championing those hardest-working, irrespective
of who they are, and teaching leadership qualities.
• Have a voice: make bold statements and continue to
drive change and strive for inclusivity, breaking down
traditional structures and calling out segregation.
It’s time for women’s contributions to be
recognised and celebrated alongside everyone
else’s. The categorisation of individuals because of
gender, race, ethnicity or sexual orientation doesn’t
encourage equality. In 2020, being a “woman in…”
isn’t the unique selling point that will help us to truly
make our mark in this industry. l
WIPR’s Influential Women in IP events are open to all.
Karen Fraser is a partner at UDL Intellectual Property
and is a European and chartered (UK) patent attorney. She
specialises in patent matters relating to computer software
and hardware, media streaming, and telecoms. She can be
contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org