“I can trace back entire chunks of my career to one article. It’s really important these days. Take advantage of the many opportunities we have today to develop your personal brand.” – Efrat Kasznik
Panelists on yesterday’s IPWatchdog webinar, “We Did it Our Way: Women IP Trailblazers Share Their Incredible Journeys” explained that, while the challenges they have had to face along their paths in the intellectual property (IP) world have made them stronger, there are actions both women and men can take to help minimize those challenges so that women don’t fall too far behind.
Angela Grayson of Precipice IP said that, although the challenges of rising to the top in a male-dominated industry may make you a better leader, “some of the challenges really put us so far behind other people, and that’s something I hope we as a legal community can work to address in order to provide more equity.”
She added: “There are probably other ways we could become better leaders besides being cash strapped and having to overcome these challenges, so we can spend our time really contributing to our economy.”
Some of the biggest issues women entrepreneurs face include a lack of access to capital and not being in the right networks, for example. Efrat Kasznik of Foresight Valuation Group, which sponsored the webinar, explained that a lot of the roadblocks for her clients start with the latter problem. “The investors are all men, the institutions churn out all men. And the numbers for 2020 are even worse – we’re not moving in the right direction,” she said.
According to the Harvard Business Review, 2020 saw a drop in venture capital funding for women-led startups: “In 2019, 2.8% of funding went to women-led startups; in 2020, that fell to 2.3%.”
For Kasznik, the choice to form Foresight Valuation Group had less to do with challenges she faced in a male dominated industry and more to do with taking control of her time. The two goals she has always had for her career are: 1) to learn something new everyday, and 2) balancing life and work. “I need flexibility with my time,” Kasznik said. “I have always worked full time, I never took a break; the key is keeping control over my time and eventually working for myself.”
For Mary Juetten, Founder and CEO of Traklight, an IP management company, success has comes with persistence. “If you want to succeed, you need to be professionally persistent and do something scary almost everyday—and you have to learn to say no so you don’t over promise and under deliver,” she said. “I see that happening with startups a lot.”
As someone who has taken on any challenge a job has ever delivered her, Renée Quinn, Chief Operating Officer and Chief Financial Officer of IPWatchdog, Inc., said that her secrets to success are being flexible and staying positive. “Meet challenges head on and stay positive” and say yes to taking on roles you might not want to, because they may help you to grow, Quinn said.
Grayson had three tips for women entering a career: 1) Don’t just get ready, stay ready; 2) never be too afraid to find your voice; and 3) confidence is powerful. “Everyone on this panel is here because they were confident enough to stay on that path,” she said.
Gene Quinn, IPWatchdog Founder and CEO, noted that most of the advice the panelists shared had nothing to do with being women, per se, and asked whether they thought hard work was the single biggest factor for success, regardless of gender or race?
But Grayson said it’s not that simple. “Some folks are going to have unique challenges over others that they’re going to have to overcome. Shared attributes of success resonate, but each of us has overcome different challenges to get here,” she explained.
For instance, Juetten said that when she was pitching her startup idea to investors “it was much harder as a woman. I had to learn to have the tough skin.” What helped her was finding the right support system. “As a female entrepreneur, you gravitate toward other female entrepreneurs for a support system. It’s good to have a sounding board of people. Finding the right people to be your business friends and colleagues is how you can overcome biases.”
One audience member commented that many women “have to leave the corporate table to get a seat at the table,” and in a poll conducted with those listening, 63% said that starting a business is “absolutely harder for women.”
Both Juetten and Kasznik acknowledged that they have experienced biases also—Juetten in the tech world and Kasznik in litigation—but that their confidence and persistence have kept them from letting it affect their goals.
Gene Quinn asked the women how we can get past the implicit and explicit biases that continue to exist? Grayson suggested the use of “positive friction”:
Have people in your life that don’t look like you. It’s really difficult to dehumanize someone you know; be friends with someone who doesn’t look like you and you’re going to develop a certain level of empathy you didn’t have before—it’s about developing relationships with people.
She also suggested that men in IP should sponsor women. “If there’s an inquiry out there, recommend a woman,” Grayson said. Renée Quinn added that those at the top should also proactively ask for recommendations for women, while Juetten urged men to become mentors to young women entering the field.
Finally, Kasznik suggested that women should think creatively about ways to be involved in IP, including writing. “I can trace back entire chunks of my career to one article,” Kasznik said. “It’s really important these days. Take advantage of the many opportunities we have today to develop your personal brand.”
IPWatchdog will explore this topic further in September at IPWatchdog Live, where a panel titled “Moving Beyond Words: Solutions for Closing the Gender Gap” will include women at the top of their fields in IP providing their take on the various challenges that they’ve faced and the best ways forward.