1) What made you want to become a patent attorney?
I had first heard about the profession when I was an undergrad studying physics. The job seemed interesting and seemed to fit my skill set but I wasn’t too sure about getting a “real job” at the time. After graduating, I did a PhD followed by a post-doc and by the end of this period I decided it was now the time to get a real job. In comparison to the often short-term contracts that are offered in academia, the life as a patent attorney looked very secure.
2) Have you faced any barriers, as a woman, in becoming successful in your field?
I feel lucky that I haven’t experienced any barriers, to my knowledge, as a woman in physics. However I have definitely experienced my own self-created barriers, which I think mirror the stereotypes at play in society – e.g. that boys are better at maths/science/technical things than girls are. These barriers can be hard to dismantle but I think seeing examples of successful women in STEM helps in overcoming this.
3) How can the industry kick-start change for women in engineering?
Women make a small percentage of those studying engineering at university as well as those taking on apprenticeships in engineering. The underrepresentation of women in engineering therefore has its root in the time before girls leave school. Actually this bias must start even earlier than this – although children’s toys are more gender neutral these days there is still an emphasis on girl’s toys being pink and fluffy. Girls need to have more exposure to female role models who work in engineering. It makes a big impact when you have a role model that you can see a bit of yourself reflected in. It would therefore be beneficial to have more outreach programs in primary and secondary schools led by women engineers.
4) Why is an inclusive and diverse workforce important?
It’s been shown that a diverse workforce leads to a greater variety of ideas and more creativity in the workplace. Commercial benefits aside though, I think a diverse workforce is simply more fun and stimulating to work in! I think it’s also important that the workforce reflects the society which we live in today. In order for a company to maintain its diversity, it should put its efforts not only towards providing an inclusive atmosphere to those who are already part of the workforce, but it should also try to recruit a diverse range of employees.
5) What advice would you give aspiring women in engineering?
To those women or girls who may be one of the few in their class, I would say don’t be disheartened by being in the minority. Simply by the nature of your differences will you have something unique to add to the group, and others will appreciate that. Despite the stereotypes, cultural ideas around what women (or men, or non-binary people) can and cannot do are shifting for the better and hopefully this will lead to more pleasant work and study environments for all!