November 19, 2018

On Tuesday, November 6, 2018, six female intellectual property practitioners gathered in the Third Floor Lounge to enlighten Cardozo students about the trials and lessons of succeeding as women in the intellectual property sector. The panel discussed working in a male-dominated sector and how to overcome the inequality, work-life balance, discriminatory culture practices, and what each speaker would have told herself if she had known what she knows now.

With an introduction by Cardozo’s Professor of Practice and Director of the FAME Center, Barbara Kolsun, the panel began with moderator Jeanne C. Curtis, Director of the Cardozo/Google Patent Diversity Project and Cardozo Law Visiting Assistant Clinical Professor of Law introducing the panelists: Allison Altersohn, Partner at King & Spalding; Lisa J. Ulrich, Intellectual Property Law Counsel at IBM; Kassie Helm, Partner at Dechert; Lateasha Powell, Counsel at Tapestry, Inc.; and Gloria Fuentes, Executive Director at the Office of the General Counsel of Merck.

The panelists stated that women do not advocate for themselves as much as men, and must juggle their professional and personal goals. According to Ms. Altersohn and Ms. Helm, men make their ambitions known to everyone beginning on day one of their job. In contrast, most women start a job without having set ambitions right away—which hurts them in the long run. Ms. Fuentes emphasized that women have to know and make their ambitions known because people will help them to where they want to be if they are notified. In addition to making their goals known, women must perform a “juggling act” when balancing their career and personal life, said Ms. Ulrich. Professor Curtis brought up the “ebbing and flowing” of the job, while Ms. Powell described her typical day as in-house counsel, “organized chaos.” Women choose their roles based on their needs; the panelists gave examples of deal closings as being a 24/7-around-the-clock job, versus patent prosecution, which is easier to manage when you have small children. 

The panel concluded with the question, “What would you tell your younger self?” Ms. Ulrich advised, “Take advantage for as many opportunities as possible.” Ms. Powell said, “Pay attention to emotional intelligence, being able to think things through and be comfortable with what you’re doing…throw yourself out there.” Professor Curtis spoke about confidence being the name of the game: “Don’t sweat it so much.” Ms. Fuentes advised to “be assertive, talk more, [and] put yourself out there.” Ms. Altersohn promoted, “It’s better done than perfect.” Ms. Helm closed by saying, “Take it in chunks,” meaning that no one can think of doing something for their whole life, so take life chunk-by-chunk.

The Women in IP panel was sponsored by the Cardozo Intellectual Property Law Society, Cardozo Women’s Law Initiative, ChIPs, and the Cardozo FAME Center.