Dear Members, Sponsors, Volunteers, Supporters, and Friends,
The United States Patent and Trademark's Office's (USPTO) 2019 Progress and Potential Report indicated in the US that the rise in women named inventors on patents has been exceedingly slow, 13% in 1995 growing to only 16% in 2016. The report also indicates that the proportion of inventors who are women remains below the proportion of science and engineering jobs held by women, suggesting the low "women inventor rates" are not merely the result of gender-based discrepancies in STEM education. There is no conclusive data indicating why this is the case; it may be due to fewer women having inventive activity, institutional or industrial failures to acknowledge the innovative activity of women, or gender bias among patent examiners. Regardless of the reason, the data from the USPTO is another piece of evidence indicating women STEM professionals have ground to make up. This is why Women & Hi Tech's mission to change the landscape of women represented in STEM to be equally inclusive to all is so relevant.
We are proud to publish our "Grown from STEM" monthly newsletter highlighting the Women & Hi Tech Board and members who are, in fact, changing the landscape in their profession in meaningful and positive ways. This month's newsletter focuses on Intellectual Property (IP). IP is an important focus area because it is an integral part of a STEM professional's work, no matter the industry or career path. STEM professionals are routinely creating something inventive, maintaining inventive work, or as highlighted in this newsletter, protecting the innovative work of others. This month we feature two amazing IP professionals, Angela B. Freeman M.S., J.D., Past President of Women & Hi Tech and Intellectual Property/Patent Attorney at Barnes & Thornburg, LLP, and Jordan Downham J.D., an IP Attorney at Quarles and Brady, LLP specializing in trademark and copyright law. After you read their profiles, you will agree, they are undoubtedly changing the landscape for us all!
As for myself, an engineer and a leader of technology organizations, IP management is an essential part of my role and the most fun. To prepare for this newsletter introduction, I had the opportunity to benchmark with Deborah Pollack-Milgate J.D., a former Women & Hi Tech President and an IP Litigation Attorney and Partner at Barnes & Thornburg, LLP, who I highly admire. I am excited to share with our readers Deborah's perspective on why she finds IP work so rewarding, challenges that still exist for women in IP management, and how the landscape has changed throughout her years of IP practice.
Deborah's view on why she finds her career so rewarding perfectly aligns with why I describe IP as fun. She indicates the most rewarding part of her role is having the opportunity to learn about so many different technologies and how each person's unique contribution creates new products and innovations. It never gets old for her. This sentiment is echoed by Jordan, who indicates that the problem solving that exists in IP management makes the work extremely fulfilling.
Concerning the landscape - Deborah indicated she does not think that women in IP are differently situated from other women in predominantly male fields of work. "I have encountered my share of sexist behavior over the years, particularly from my male opponents in litigation. The stakes are high in patent litigation, so the tactics are sometimes brutal. I have kept a list of names I have been called over the years that you almost have to see to believe. Once, when a man apologized after a deposition in which a colleague of his had made several sexist comments, he then proceeded to describe to me that he was sitting in his dark office, all alone, watching a woman swaying outside his window. These are surreal experiences – and yet they happen. A woman, when present in a group of men, is rarely a neutral presence, in my experience. She is the presence of the "other" which may be highlighted, or praised, but also sidelined and ignored," Deborah explained. This ties in with the message captured within the accompanying profile on Angela B. Freeman. Angela is an advocate for increasing the percentage of all women in STEM to create a better landscape. And she stresses that racial diversity is also vitally important to achieving the inclusivity we seek.
Deborah's summary hits the mark, "It is critical to have a group of women – or several of them -- looking out for you. Women and Hi Tech is a fantastic organization that reminds each of us we matter, and we are not fighting these battles alone." Deborah and I also agree on this final point; we need to share candidly, not only with women but also with men. When we do this, we find the connections we need to lead us back to ourselves and our success.
In this 21st edition of "Grown from STEM," Women & Hi Tech would like to invite you to learn more about our Past President, Angela B. Freeman, M.S., J.D. We are also excited to introduce you to a dedicated member, Jordan Downham J.D. Each of these women continues to blaze trails in their careers while being strong advocates for others and advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion in the STEM fields. In their profiles, Angela and Jordan both shared candid comments about their journeys and provided us a moment of honesty to help us all consider what we can do to encourage each other. We can work together to change the landscape, no matter our chosen STEM field. Please read more about Angela and Jordan.
Linda M. Hicks
President-Elect Women & Hi Tech
Vice President Midwest Operation, ECC Horizons