A panel during the Women in IP Law breakfast yesterday morning discussed best practices for retaining women. Progress has been made but a big difference exists between firms that include women as a junior part of a team and firms that put women into leadership roles.
Barbara McCurdy of Finnegan noted that attitudes toward involving women have changed: "Back in the day, the thought was we need to get more women to play golf!"
Evelyn Chen of Ericsson revealed her company has an employee target of 30% women, although this is tough in a company with so many engineers. "A lot of our groups are about 20%," she reported. "It's about making sure women are included. The culture is definitely one of the driving forces behind it." She noted management is very good at noticing if there are no women in a particular meeting, for example.
Eloise Maki of 3M said: "One of the best practices I wanted to highlight is top leadership really embracing diversity and an inclusive culture."
McCurdy noted that this dynamic can play out at law firms as well. "There needs to truly be a commitment to seeing people of all diversities. Keeping that one woman on a pitch as a junior member is not enough. We need to get women into leadership roles, and it is difficult."
Celine Crowson of Hogan Lovells echoed this theme. "The challenge for individuals choosing counsel is you tend to see many diverse teams these days, but women often tend to be in a junior role or be the secondary leader. Pick a team where the woman is actually the lead."
Crowson also noted some positive signs from the judiciary, with judges such as Judge Alsup in the Northern District of California who is encouraging when women associates argue a particular point in a case.
It was also announced at the breakfast that next May will mark 10 years of Global Women in IP dinners. There are now about 70 events around the world, on almost every continent.