What made you want to become a patent attorney?
Like many patent attorneys, I realised that I wasn’t fascinated by any one area of science enough to have an academic career. I’m interested in how technology can be applied to make life better day-to-day. I was also attracted to the profession as I’ve always loved language, whether it’s communicating in English or learning foreign languages. I’d worked in a multi-lingual team in Switzerland during a summer research project and liked the idea of qualifying as a European attorney with work taking me to different countries.
Have you faced any barriers, as a woman, in becoming successful in your field?
I can honestly say that being a woman has not felt like a barrier at all. Studying physics at university, I was certainly in the gender minority, but my academic credentials spoke for themselves. Sometimes I would pause to notice the lack of female head shots on the walls, but I had no doubt that diversity was improving. I always had female role models to look up to here at Dehns. Being female didn’t hinder my career progression, regardless of me taking maternity leave three times. It’s fantastic that we’ve had a woman as our managing partner for the last 6 years.
How can the industry kick-start change for women in engineering?
Women in engineering and the physical sciences are still very much in the minority. We have to inspire more girls to study these subjects by making them aware of the myriad roles that are opened up. I get cross when one of my kids breaks a toy and automatically says “I’ll ask Daddy to fix it” – I’m quick to remind them that I’m an engineer as well as an attorney. I think we still need some stronger female voices to come through in popular culture. We have big personalities like Brian Cox, James Dyson or Elon Musk who talk passionately in the media about physics and technology. Sadly I don’t see many female inventors, let alone ones that are predisposed to shouting about their achievements.
Why is an inclusive and diverse workforce important?
We have a saying in Yorkshire, where I grew up, “There’s nowt as funny as folk”… You can take this different ways, but for me it sums up that diversity of people in any form makes for a richer environment in terms of ideas and viewpoints that you just wouldn’t see yourself. I think about any workforce as a machine made up of many parts. Then inclusivity is simply essential for ensuring that we have cogs of all shapes and sizes, and each cog is making its respective contribution.
What advice would you give aspiring women in engineering?
It’s the old adage: be yourself. No one else in my family was involved in STEM so they didn’t really know what to make of me wanting to study science at university. But I knew I enjoyed it and I could envisage career opportunities that I had no idea about. The fact that one of those was being a patent attorney was completely unknown to me at the time! As for being female, just don’t worry about it. You know that people who work in engineering are logical folk so it follows that your contributions will be valued in an objective way, regardless of who you are. At least that’s what I’ve found.