Professor Pina D’Agostino joined the Osgoode Hall Law School faculty in 2006 and brings creativity and passion to her role as Founder and Director of IP Osgoode, Osgoode’s flagship Intellectual Property Law and Technology Program. She is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of the IPilogue (www.iposgoode.ca), the first IP law blog of its kind, and Founder and Director of Osgoode’s IP Intensive and the Innovation Clinic, the first legal clinic of its kind helping start-ups.
Before her Osgoode appointment, she was recruited by the federal government’s Recruitment of Policy Leaders (RPL) program for the Department of Canadian Heritage and worked at the Copyright Policy Branch. She is the Editor-in-Chief of the Intellectual Property Journal (IPJ) and previously was an associate at a large firm in Toronto. Her research interests in the intellectual property, technology and innovation law and policy fields are wide-ranging and she is highly sought after as a public speaker and consultant. She is a cited authority at the Supreme Court of Canada and in various media, and is regularly called on by foreign and Canadian federal and provincial governments for advice.
Prof. Giuseppina D’Agostino
Q1 Why is it important that more women get involved in the IP system?
It is more important for women to be involved and represented in business generally, the IP system being a slice of it. More women entrepreneurs lead to more diversity from the products we will create and commercialize, to the boardrooms we will be in, governing our leading companies. Ultimately, we will have more female role models our girls and boys looking up to, sorely need.
Q2 Why is there a persistent gender gap in the innovation ecosystem? Are current efforts enough to change this situation?
The gap persists in various ecosystems, not limited to the innovation space. Generally women are the traditional caregivers and this takes up a lot of time, time away from innovation. We need to be doing much more to support women in the innovation space, starting with ensuring more women are encouraged to enter into STEM fields and stay in them. Within legal education, we embraced and conquered this challenge long ago. Now at Osgoode we actually have more women than men enrolled in the JD program who ultimately are very active in our Innovation Clinic helping start-ups, taking our IP classes and volunteering their time at our many IP Osgoode activities, including this blog.
Q3 Do you think it is more difficult for female innovators and entrepreneurs to secure funding (and, therefore, be able to afford IP costs)?
I learned an interesting fact at this year’s International Women’s Day event hosted by Collins Barrow Vaughan and BDC that women are more risk averse in borrowing than men, and that when they do, they tend to borrow less than their male counterparts. This invariably translates into less risk-taking in their business ventures and funding their IP costs. The documentary film Dream, Girl (notice the punctuation!) showcasing the stories of inspiring and ambitious female entrepreneurs helps lead the way to bolster women’s confidence. I would encourage as many of you reading this to see it, no matter your gender or interest in the inventor/start-up space.
Q4 Are there unique challenges that female inventors and entrepreneurs face?
Inventors and entrepreneurs already face more challenges in Canada than in some other hot spots, like the Bay Area in California for instance, men and female alike. As women, however, the challenges are greater because of a convergence of factors, such as lack of role models and lack of funding from investors. Some investors stereotype and feel that women can’t run companies. This is patently false. Pardon the pun!
Q5 How can the innovation and IP ecosystems become more inclusive for under-represented groups, such as female entrepreneurs?
I think it starts from the grassroots in encouraging more girls go into traditionally poorly-represented disciplines (ie STEM). There also need to be more men and women at the top supporting and encouraging talented women. Whether it be through venture capital, angel and other needed financial backing. Educational curricula and the media too could help by showcasing female entrepreneur role models and, albeit successful, not hearing about Elon Musk and Steve Jobs all the time.
Q6 What types of assistance will benefit female entrepreneurs?
Places like the IP Osgoode Innovation Clinic are particularly sensitive to supporting underrepresented groups, such as female inventors and entrepreneurs. We are currently working with the Canadian Intellectual Property Office to further support women in their exciting start- ups. At the Innovation Clinic we already assist such women by empowering them with information and know how to protect their technologies, grow their businesses and make the difference we know they can!