Dehns values diversity and equal opportunities for all, allowing us to promote an inclusive and enriched working environment. We are extremely proud of the support and development we offer our female employees, and the fact that c.40% of our 31 partners are women.
What better time to acknowledge the achievements of the women in our firm than International Women’s Day (IWD). In celebration of IWD, our Managing Partner, Elizabeth Jones, discusses topics ranging from becoming a patent attorney to the importance of normalising the presence of women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) fields.
1) How did you become a patent attorney?
While I was finishing my PhD I became interested in alternative careers that would use my science background but not involve working in a laboratory. A friend suggested that working as a patent attorney would combine scientific, language, analytical and problem-solving skills. The combination appealed to me. I did consider other alternatives that would have made use of my science background, but this seemed to be the best fit.
2) Have you faced any barriers, as a woman, in becoming successful in your field?
The biggest barriers have been those that have been self-imposed. Sadly I have realized that I am not unique in this way. Women, in particular, frequently lack objectivity in assessing their skills and tend to focus on what they cannot do rather than what they can do. Developing a sense of your own value and a willingness to try new things are key.
3) Why is an inclusive and diverse workforce important?
Our clients are diverse and the issues we need to address are diverse. The type of work we do benefits from alternative ways of looking at a problem. An inclusive and diverse workforce allows us to learn from each other and to reappraise how we assess and solve problems. It also allows us to focus on the strengths that different people can bring to the group.
4) How can the industry kick-start change for women in STEM?
We need to normalise the presence of women in STEM. In industries where this is seen as unusual this creates the perception of a barrier to entry. Until such time as there is better representation of women across STEM-based industries, visibility of those that are already present within the industry is key. Therefore, as well as encouraging women to enter and remain in STEM-based industries by appropriate recruitment and retention programmes, industries need to work on the visibility of those women already in that industry. This can be achieved by women adopting leadership, mentoring or outreach roles, for example. This needs to come, not just by companies offering such roles to women, but also from the women already in those industries making the effort to put themselves forward for such roles. Once it becomes normal to see women in STEM and in leadership roles, young women are more likely to consider careers in STEM to be accessible and within their grasp.
5) What advice would you give aspiring women in the STEM industry?
Challenge yourself and your assumptions. Never assume you cannot do something before you try it. Don’t measure your success against everyone else. Measure your success against the goals you set for yourself.
We need to normalise the presence of women in STEM. In industries where this is seen as unusual this creates the perception of a barrier to entry. Until such time as there is better representation of women across STEM-based industries, visibility of those that are already present within the industry is key.