Celebrating Every Woman on International Women’s Day

At IP Osgoode, the promotion and advancement of women has always been at our core. Soon after IP Osgoode first launched in 2008, one of our first events was “Women and IP Roundtable: Is everything rosy in here or is the glass ceiling tinted pink?” For over a decade since then, we’ve been happy to see the ways in which conversations about equal treatment and respect for women in the workplace have evolved and are taken more seriously. While we still have a long way to go, we as a society are heading in the right direction.

Through our many other events, the IP Innovation Clinic and the IPilogue, IP Osgoode seeks to empower and give a voice to marginalized and underrepresented communities. Check out some of our recent IPilogue articles relevant to this cause:

Over the past week, we asked women in various roles and at all levels across IP law, business and technology to talk about their experiences getting to where they are, the prejudices they have encountered, and the ways in which they actively promote other women in their fields. With this piece, we hope to fuel the movement to enable all women an equal opportunity to succeed in their personal and professional endeavours.

Name a woman who inspires you professionally and describe how she has helped you to succeed:

My mother was an early feminist and she encouraged my sister and I to be financially independent, working women. This has encouraged me to stick with my career as a lawyer, despite the challenges of trying to balance a family with a very taxing profession.”

 -Paula Clancy, Managing Attorney at Clancy PC

Dr. Riffat Raana (mother) – her grit, dedication to work, independence, perseverance and initiative have been a source of constant inspiration for me.”

-Emma Abbas, Student-at-Law at IP Osgoode

Andrea Rush, she is a senior partner at Blaney McMurtry, and passed the IP Year in Review Chair role to me which helped raise my profile.”

-May Cheng, Partner at Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP

Professor D’Agostino – she is always thinking differently and challenging the norm. With a smile!”

-Anonymous

Amy-Lynne Williams; she has taken the time to mentor, teach, champion causes I care about, encourage me to follow my own path, and demonstrate how to balance work and life priorities.”

-Jennifer Davidson, IP and Technology Lawyer at Deeth Williams Wall LLP

Professor Giuseppina (Pina) D’Agostino: Since I joined IP Osgoode in the first year of my studies, I have been given many amazing opportunities by Professor D’Agostino to explore the fields of IP, business, and technology law. The diverse set of opportunities that IP Osgoode, led by Professor D’Agostino, offers to students to put their theoretical understanding of IP law to practice has helped me get a well-rounded view of what practicing IP law looks like. Additionally, the example that she sets for students in leadership, and the encouragement and support that she provides has helped me a lot in my law school journey.”

-Bonnie Hassanzadeh, 2L Student at Osgoode Hall Law School

Alison Youngman was a smiling dynamic life force and I was fortunate to have her as my mentor. She recruited me to Stikeman Elliott as a summer student and from our very first meeting she took me under her wing as her mentee and guided me in formative early career decisions. She encouraged me to always aim high and pursue my doctorate at the University of Oxford, even though that would mean me leaving the firm. She was proud of me and often told me so. One of the busiest women I knew with a thriving practice heading the firm’s Technology and Outsourcing group, yet she always cleared her calendar whenever I would visit her. She championed women and was one of the first to see technology law as an emerging area of practice back in 1980s. A genuine trailblazer in every respect, and most especially for young women, she died on the very day honouring women, International Women’s Day. Her legacy lives on in her kids, and in the many women she touched, including me.”

-Prof Pina D’Agostino, Founder & Director of IP Osgoode, Associate Professor at Osgoode Hall Law School, York University

What is the biggest challenge that you have faced getting to where you are today? How did you overcome it?

“The biggest challenge I faced was taking maternity leaves for my children. I was eventually taken off the partnership track and destined to be a perpetual associate until I took matters into my hands and launched my own firm.”

-Paula Clancy, Managing Attorney at Clancy PC

“Moving countries twice, each time I had to start over. I can’t ‘overcome’ time, but it has made me incredibly versatile, empathetic and able to pivot and reinvent myself in a new situation. I’ve learnt from my past and I look towards the future excited to discover more aspects of myself.”

-Emma Abbas, Student-at-Law at IP Osgoode

“Recognition and advancement were denied based on perceptions and stereotypes rather than performance. I had to move jobs to be recognized by a more progressive firm.”

-May Cheng, Partner at Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP

“Being too conservative about taking on new challenges. Remembering that every time you try something new you learn and grow. If someone else can do it, so can you.”

-Anonymous

“Balance. It’s an ongoing challenge to balance an energetic, young family and a demanding, young career. I’m not sure this is something one can overcome, but one can learn to manage the competing priorities.”

-Jennifer Davidson, IP and Technology Lawyer at Deeth Williams Wall LLP

“Adjusting to the pace and demands of law school courses was very challenging for me in the beginning. As a student who comes from a science background, writing long papers and exams in law school did not feel natural to me. Learning takes patience and time and in the past year and a half I have learned to be more patient with myself. I think finding an area of the law that I genuinely enjoy learning about has helped me in my adjustment process. Additionally, focusing on my strengths and getting involved with extracurriculars has helped boost my confidence and belief in myself.”

-Bonnie Hassanzadeh, 2L Student at Osgoode Hall Law School

“I feel as though I have faced many challenges, and still continue to. Perhaps my biggest one is my immigrant background which did not provide me with the privileges that many of my law school peers enjoyed. Born in Canada, I moved to Italy at an early age, and only returned to not speak a word of English and had to work my way up from being at the bottom of the class. I was the first in my family to go to university. I excelled with many all nighters and determination and the most treasured love and support from my parents, who have taught me life’s most important lessons. My family is my rock.”

-Prof Pina D’Agostino, Founder & Director of IP Osgoode, Associate Professor at Osgoode Hall Law School, York University

What negative attitudes have you personally witnessed that need to stop in order to promote the advancement of women in your profession?

“I’ve been told that I’m “soft-spoken” by quite a few men. I’ve been told this in multiple situations, from being in a negotiation setting to speaking with a parking attendant. I think it’s fairly common for men to make this kind of unsolicited comment about young women, and it connotes a lack of power or confidence, especially in a professional setting. But what is important is that I don’t see myself this way.

While I definitely try to communicate in a way that leaves room for others to contribute or even disagree, I know that when I speak about something with conviction, my point of view is clear.

Being comfortable with my “soft-spoken” self has allowed me to (for the most part) take these comments in stride. I see the benefit of the way I communicate through interactions with clients and through collaborative work with other students or lawyers. I may not be loud or overbearing when I speak, but I know that I am a wonderful teammate, and one day will make a great leader, BECAUSE of my ability to listen and to leave room for others in the way I communicate. I hope that I get less of these comments going forward, and that men who may have had the urge to tell me that I’m “soft-spoken” in the past start to appreciate the benefits of different ways of communicating.”

-Rachel Marcus, 3L Student at Osgoode Hall Law School, Senior Clinic Fellow at IP Osgoode IP Innovation Clinic

“I believe maternity leave poses the biggest challenge for women in law. While wonderful on a personal level and essential on a societal level, maternity leave and childcare has the effect of sidetracking women. Law is a time-based profession so time away from work inevitably interferes with aspirations for partnership, leadership positions, salary, etc., and negative attitudes regarding taking such time needs to stop. The reality is that women still take on the lion’s share of child and home care responsibilities. By making paternity leave mandatory for men, I believe this would level the playing field.”

-Paula Clancy, Managing Attorney at Clancy PC

“Career women do not feel secure having children. There is not enough support for single mothers, for new mothers or career women who have worked hard for years to get to where they are. They are pitched back a decade in career progression for maternity leave. Not enough men speak out about women issues. Not enough men are willing to hold out a supporting hand to bring equality in the true sense. Women who work night shifts and have infants have no childcare support.”

-Emma Abbas, Student-at-Law at IP Osgoode

“Women tearing down other women, and not speaking up or standing up for other women, in order to be accepted by the boys club as the token women. These are the ones that Madeleine Albright said deserve a special place in hell.”

-May Cheng, Partner at Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP

“That you can’t balance family and work. That you have to work all the time.”

-Anonymous

“There is an ongoing underlying belief that women cannot compete in the same league as men in the tech arena. I see it regularly in negotiations with older practitioners. Our job is to continue to knock that down at every opportunity.”

-Jennifer Davidson, IP and Technology Lawyer at Deeth Williams Wall LLP

“I think the notion that there are limited seats at the table available to women and that women have to compete with one another for opportunities is a particularly negative attitude. Scarcity of opportunities available to women in the legal field is a systemic issue that needs to be addressed. However, pitting women against one another in an already competitive environment is something that needs to stop in order to promote the advancement of women in the legal field.”

-Bonnie Hassanzadeh, 2L Student at Osgoode Hall Law School

“There needs to be more understanding of women’s unique challenges. We are tireless and try and balance it all and always face the brunt of crises, more than our male counterparts do. Our current pandemic is a case in point.”

-Prof Pina D’Agostino, Founder & Director of IP Osgoode, Associate Professor at Osgoode Hall Law School, York University

What is the next glass ceiling to shatter in achieving gender parity in intellectual property law, business, or technology?

“Mandatory paternity leave for fathers.”

-Paula Clancy, Managing Attorney at Clancy PC

 

“Initiatives at the government, corporate and individual level to level the playing field for women. To give the kind of financial or child support that career women need to succeed. This could be on-site child-care facilities, flexible work options, remote work, night/day-care coverage.”

-Emma Abbas, Student-at-Law at IP Osgoode

“There are more Andrews than women in the top IP litigator list. That says it all! Women are not recommended as IP litigators nearly as often. There is a horrible stereotype there.”

-May Cheng, Partner at Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP

“To recognize the advantage of different kinds of leadership and diverse opinions.”

-Anonymous

“More women in equity partner roles within firms. It is sad to see that ratio numbers are so low.”

-Jennifer Davidson, IP and Technology Lawyer at Deeth Williams Wall LLP

 

“More representation of women of colour, especially Indigenous women needs to be seen in the fields of business, technology, and IP law. Despite the efforts to promote diversity and inclusion, the legal field continues to lack adequate representation of women of colour and Indigenous communities. The barriers that these communities face in entering the fields of business, technology, and IP law have to be addressed from the early stages of education in order for this glass ceiling to shatter.”

-Bonnie Hassanzadeh, 2L Student at Osgoode Hall Law School

“There are many ceilings to shatter still. Increasing representation of women as they advance up the echelons of power is a must. We now have more than half the incoming law school class comprised of women, yet more women still need to be seen as we rise up the profession, and be properly compensated for it. We still make less than our male counterparts and we should not stand for this, not even men. We need more female entrepreneurs to start up and scale up, more women in boards and in leading decision-making roles. Lots more to be done for gender parity.”

-Prof Pina D’Agostino, Founder & Director of IP Osgoode, Associate Professor at Osgoode Hall Law School, York University

How do you work to empower women who wish to be where you are today?

“I run a women-based firm. I encourage women to continue to learn and seek professional designations (such as Certified Trademark Administrator, Certified Patent Administrator, Registered Trademark Agent). I also understand that women take on the lion’s share of child care and home care responsibilities so I try to be as flexible as possible to encourage a balance.”

-Paula Clancy, Managing Attorney at Clancy PC

“Provide feedback, give recommendations, moral support, mentoring where possible.”

-Emma Abbas, Student-at-Law at IP Osgoode

“Mentoring, training, coaching and sponsoring. Setting an example and paving a way forward. Not giving up on the fight.”

-May Cheng, Partner at Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP

 

“Always open to meet, be positive, challenge old measures of success.”

-Anonymous

“Mentoring! New lawyers need to see it to be it!”

-Jennifer Davidson, IP and Technology Lawyer at Deeth Williams Wall LLP

 

“I help support 1Ls through the Osgoode Women’s Network Mentorship Program. I connect students in their first year of studies with helpful resources and lend moral support when they need it.”

-Bonnie Hassanzadeh, 2L Student at Osgoode Hall Law School

“I am blessed to work in education, in the university at the front lines of female empowerment. I aim to increase access, nurture, mentor young female talent to excel. I always think back to how hard it has been and continues to be for me and wish to spare other women from being similarly placed. My goal is to advise, empower my female students through their education and create opportunities for their advancement to find their own unique career happiness.

In particular at IP Osgoode, from the outset, I have spearheaded many initiatives to empower women: from the type of events we hold for the wider community of women, the students we train to the female start ups we help. Empowering women will no doubt continue to preoccupy me (and inspire me!) in the many years ahead.”

-Prof Pina D’Agostino, Founder & Director of IP Osgoode, Associate Professor at Osgoode Hall Law School, York University

What advice would you give to women and allies alike who want to help further women’s professional advancement?

“I would say be flexible – sometimes women can be hard on other women. We need to support each other and raise each other up. We need a “team” mentality.”

-Paula Clancy, Managing Attorney at Clancy PC

 

“Be willing to give of your resources- time, money, opportunity, moral support without judgment.”

-Emma Abbas, Student-at-Law at IP Osgoode

“Be a sponsor, mentor, advocate and coach to young women in the IP profession. We all need a helping hand.”

-May Cheng, Partner at Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP

 

“Support other women.”

-Anonymous

“Take the time to mentor, support and champion new lawyers (particularly women) at every opportunity. Let them know when they have done a great job and if they make mistakes, show them how to improve! Take them out to lunch or have a Zoom coffee to discuss their career goals and lift them up where the opportunity exists.”

-Jennifer Davidson, IP and Technology Lawyer at Deeth Williams Wall LLP

“I think the first step to helping is listening. In order for allies and women in positions of power to be able to help, they need to listen to the needs and concerns of different communities and direct their resources accordingly. I also believe giving women of diverse backgrounds and perspectives opportunities to be in the “decision-making rooms” is vital to making genuine progress in advancement of all women in the legal field.”

-Bonnie Hassanzadeh, 2L Student at Osgoode Hall Law School

“Listen to one another, lift each other up and work together, not against each other.”

-Prof Pina D’Agostino, Founder & Director of IP Osgoode, Associate Professor at Osgoode Hall Law School, York University

 Written by Ashley Moniz, Lawyer, and Assistant Director of IP Osgoode

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