I appreciate that many barriers have already been knocked down for me, and I now feel that my opportunities are endless, says Adraea Brown, trademark counsel at Harley-Davidson.
Did you face any challenges or barriers when you started your career?
I am fortunate in that I haven’t faced many challenges in my career, at least not in my workplace. Right out of law school, I got a job working at a woman- and minority-owned IP boutique firm. My opinions and views were greatly valued and appreciated from day one, and it wasn’t an experience which I took for granted.
When dealing with opposing counsel, however, the majority were men who could be very condescending and dismissive towards me as a young woman of colour.
"The ideas and talent are there, the industry just has to be open to welcoming it."
One particular counsel would constantly tell me stories about his relationship with some of the judges in the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, as well as a time he had met former US Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, all the while trivialising my case and attempting to make me convince my client to drop the claim.
He was not successful, but I realised that I did not witness him engage with any of the male attorneys in the same way he had with me.
When walking into a meeting with counsel and judges where you’re the only woman, it can be quite intimidating, but I think women are proving that we are more than capable and command equal respect.
What did you understand about IP before you joined the industry?
Before joining the IP legal world, I knew some of the basics around what IP was and how it was obtained, but not much more on the specifics. That said, I purposely sought out a law school that had a strong IP programme as it was my goal to practise IP law.
How do you think women’s role in the IP industry has changed since then?
I have noticed that a lot of women are now leading IP departments—which is great! There continues to be a strong emphasis on having that diversity within the IP world. As women already know, we have a lot of insight and value to add. Additionally, women are now outpacing men in law schools, further demonstrating that women in the industry will not be slowing down.
What more can the IP industry do to encourage the participation of women?
This is applicable to the legal industry as a whole. People like to see themselves represented—I know I do—and understand that their viewpoints and contributions will be valued. It’s important for aspiring professionals to see other women in their desired careers, and more of this is present today.
I don’t believe there are any specific things that can be done to encourage the participation of women, other than ensure that there is an open space to boost the involvement of everyone so that the industry can have greater diversity of thought.
How can the industry support innovative and creative women in bringing their ideas to market?
It is the same as I said above. I believe that a generally encouraging environment that is open and welcoming to all will support innovation and creativity. The ideas and talent are there, the industry just has to be open to welcoming it.
Who or what inspires you?
I’m inspired by the two women under whom I’ve had the pleasure to work in my previous and my current role. I’m further inspired by the opportunity women have to shape the IP industry and the legal profession in general.
As a young woman of colour, I appreciate that many barriers have already been knocked down for me, and I now feel that my opportunities are endless. I believe I can effect change just by continuing to strive for success while also being true to myself.
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Harley-Davidson, World IP Day 2018, Adraea Brown, women of colour, trademark counsel,