USIPA 2022: Use data and programmes to enhance D&I
Speakers from Meta, Finnegan, Equifax and the LOT Network said it was important to use data, get involved and reach out more to improve diversity and inclusion
Counsel need to make better use of data, get involved in programmes and more regularly reach out to STEM students to improve diversity and inclusion in their organisations, said speakers at USIPA 2022 in Atlanta yesterday, October 20.
Esther Lim, partner at Finnegan in Washington DC, said the intellectual property profession had improved matters but needed to do more.
She pointed out that the IP profession was made up of just 22% women, 1.7% black people and 1.9% Hispanics.
“Ladies and gentlemen, we have a long way to go,” she added.
Elizabeth Lester, assistant general counsel at Equifax in Georgia, said data was critical to solving the problem.
She added that if counsel looked at the data on staff and inventorships rates, they could begin to plug the gaps where needed.
“In some areas, such as pharma, there are much higher numbers of women – but even there, women are inventing at a much lower rate than men.”
Jeremiah Chan, head of patents at Meta in Silicon Valley, agreed, adding that companies should consider making that data open in aggregate form.
He pointed out that Meta and Lenovo did just that at the IPO Annual Event in Los Angeles last September.
“Without that data, improving diversity and inclusion is impossible – it’s just a stab in the dark,” said Chan.
The panellists said programmes were also crucial in the D&I mission. Lester at Equifax noted that Georgia Patents, run by Georgia Lawyers for the Arts, was one of the most successful programmes in the country.
Lim added that Finnegan reached out to prospective IP lawyers at a young age to tell them about careers in patent, trademark and copyright law.
“We decided to do that because we had a number of students tell us they wished they’d finished their bioengineering degrees so they could have pursued IP careers. They had no idea they could combine law and science.”
She added that it wasn’t good enough for counsel to catch these budding professionals at law school – they had to go younger, to university or before.
Chan noted that several Meta staff had set up successful D&I programmes. He said Shayne O’Reilly, Meta’s associate general counsel, had set up scholarships for historically black colleges and universities.
Chan added that it was more important for counsel to take a closer look at their own teams, however.
He said someone pointed out to him a few years ago that his team wasn’t particularly diverse.
“That changed everything,” he said. “You’ve got to stop and take a look at the people in your own team, otherwise your talk about D&I could be hypocritical.”
Disclaimer: Patrick Wingrove is a board member of the Global Intellectual Property Alliance, a sister organisation of the USIPA