From October 2016 to March 2017 the team is joined by Guest Kats Rosie Burbidge and Eibhlin Vardy, and by InternKats Verónica Rodríguez Arguijo, Tian Lu and Hayleigh Bosher.

Monday, 26 January 2015

Women in IP leadership roles: MIP responds

Last week, in "A woman's place is in ... the lead: thoughts on an upcoming IP Forum", here, the IPKat reviewed a forthcoming International Women's Leadership Forum on Intellectual Property and asked some fairly simple questions about women's leadership and the role of events of this nature. This blogpost has already attracted over 30 comments from readers, reading from the perceptive to the predictably sexist; it has also drawn a fuller response in the form of a blogpost from the event's backers Managing Intellectual Property (MIP) magazine, "Why IP needs events aimed at women", written by MIP's Emma Barraclough. In her piece Emma writes, in relevant part:
"Despite what critics have said, our popular events and network for women working in IP promote inclusive working cultures, networking, career progression and role models. What’s wrong with that? ...
... [H]ere’s why Managing IP decided to launch events aimed at women: we thought it would meet a demand. We looked at the statistics about the number of men and women beginning their careers in law firms and those that made partnership or took on chief IP counsel roles and saw a gap in the figures and in the market.
We don’t know why more women leave the profession than men: perhaps they can’t (or no longer want to) hack it. Perhaps their priorities change. Perhaps they can’t see a way of returning to law after a career break (even as white collar careers might soon stretch to 50 years).

Perhaps they face systemic and unconscious (or conscious) bias that undermines their commitment and ambition. Perhaps they find it hard to find sponsors (not surprising, given the innuendo about "silver spoons" given by "sugar daddies" detailed by one anonymous IPKat commentator). Perhaps they just need to Lean In.

But we do know that many law firms and companies want to limit the number of smart and expensively ­trained staff that choose to leave them and are asking questions about how their culture, practices and policies can help them do that. We thought we could organise events and set up a network that would facilitate the process.

So far our efforts have proved quite popular. Our network has hosted interviews with senior women in the profession and case studies on issues including mentoring and sponsorship. Offering a platform for innovative firms to showcase their own practices and share their experiences helps people at more conservative law firms (of which, we know, there are many) to petition for change.
Our events have given a new platform for senior women in the profession to talk about substantive law issues (and with a roster of speakers like this, there is no compromise on quality) as well as talk about strategies for managing career progression. That has proved helpful for senior professionals who want to share ideas about bringing on and retaining junior staff, as well as offering a whole range of role models for younger women.

This role model effect, we have found, has proved immensely popular. There are many successful people who put their career achievements down to individual capability and ambition. In doing so they often dismiss the importance of having role models in their own likeness. In my experience, these people’s role models often look and sound very much like themselves".
It seems to this Kat that the issues which Emma highlights are far from being unique to the various branches of intellectual property practice and would appear to be endemic within legal practice as a whole.  Indeed, he would welcome some statistics on how greatly the ability of women to advance in the profession and assume leadership roles varies between different fields of expertise: he has already in his previous blogpost cited the successful assumption by women of leadership roles in trade mark practice. Why should other fields of endeavour be different?

Never mind glass ceilings, even
glass doors are a problem ...
A proper statistical analysis of entry to the legal profession and progress through it might also highlight other trends which this Kat senses to be the case but cannot verify. These include his impression that the proportion of females studying law and entering the profession has continued to rise and now constitutes more than half; that women are much better represented in many public sector and in-house roles than are men, and that they have more or less created a niche role in law firms for the professional support lawyer or "PSL", a role which in many firms is increasingly demanding in terms of knowledge, skill, effort and responsibility.


Anonymous said...

"Despite what critics have said, our popular events and network for men working in IP promote inclusive working cultures, networking, career progression and role models. Such events include attendance at men-only golf clubs, conferences where only men are allowed to talk and attend, although we occasionally allow women to watch from a dark room though some slats, and such like.

What’s wrong with that?"

Anonymous said...


I agree with the Kat's impressions at the end. It takes time to feed through the system and t now loos like more women are coming out than men. Many women are also benefiting significantly from roles where they can work part-time that men are excluded from. Additionally, no-one bats an eyelid when a woman leaves on time to collect her children or gets out of travelling and other such events because of childcare. The same cannot be said to apply to men who also have parental responsibilities.

The lunatics in charge of the madhouse have simply been replaced by another set, more dangerous because they believe they are 'politically correct'.

Anonymous said...

I welcome these blog articles as part of a very public debate about women in the profession. As part of this I think the role model idea is excellent as a way of changing things, for example.

However there also need to be less public debates which take a more nuanced approach of the issue. Public debate is always very polarised because the extremes of the issue dominate. However for women to properly get to grips with all this there needs to be a more reflective look at what is needed. I think what mustn't happen in the feminist backlash to the male backlash is loss of traditional female strengths (e.g. inclusiveness and cooperation) they can bring to other organisations and to leadership roles. It would be a shame, but understandable, if women felt the only way to progress was to be more like men.

Anonymous said...


"traditional female strengths (e.g. inclusiveness and cooperation)"

"if women felt the only way to progress was to be more like men"

Anonymous said...

Thank you for calling me 'sexist' Anon at 10:00. That is my point about a public debate being difficult.

Anonymous said...

Public debate is simple. Unless you fall into the politically correct group referred to by previous anon. Based on the comments I consider sexist (obviously okay when speaking about men) you fall into said group.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous at 8:47 nails it.

Politically correct is all about the political and nothing at all about the correct.

One does not achieve equality by "evening the playing field" with the very same tool that is criticized to begin with. Thus the adage: two wrongs do not make a right.

One does not conquer racism by creating the notion of "white privilege" and then wanting that "privilege" for all, and despising those that are "lucky" to have that "privilege."

One does not stop global warming (er, um, sorry, "climate change") by letting developing countries use the now realized planet-desecrating actions that you would not let the "moer advanced" countries use, in order to "catch up."

So too, with sexism.

So too, with ANY human characteristic.

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