In this blog, Joan Mill, EVP of Sales at CPA Global, discusses the importance of diversity in IP. What technologies would we be without if it was not history’s innovative women?

Google’s recent dismissal of employee James Damore, whose controversial memo argued that women are at a biological disadvantage to work in technology, has reignited a call for women’s equality in technical industries. Facebook COO and former Google vice president, Sheryl Sandberg, commented; “inequality in technology is not due to gender differences. It is due to cultural stereotypes that continue to persist. We all need to do more”.

A female legacy

Technological innovations from women entrepreneurs have made a significant impact on IP history. The first computer language was invented by Grace Hopper in 1944. Hopper coined the terms ‘bug’ and ‘debugging’ when she had to remove moths from her room sized machine. Grace Hopper's work was never protected; her contributions were made before computer software technology was even considered a "patentable" field. 

Stephanie Kwolek’s research with chemical compounds for the DuPont Company led her to invent Kevlar — the material used in bulletproof vests — which was patented in 1966. Ann Tsukamoto is one of two people awarded a patent in 1991 for a process to isolate the human stem cell. Her work has led to advancements in comprehending the blood systems of cancer patients and could eventually lead to a cure. Vienna-born actress Hedy Lamarr was awarded a patent in 1942 for a "secret communication system" that would go on to become a constituent part of GPS, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth technology. Without these innovative women, the world would be a very different place.

An unfair race to the top

In a study that included more than 1,000 participants, the University of Buffalo found that in collaborative work environments, women often emerge as the natural group leader - even when they are outnumbered. Yet women are largely under-represented in leadership roles. As of 2017, just seven of the 100 companies listed on this year’s FTSE 100 index had female CEOs at the helm.

Women empower women

Diverse businesses where employees proportionately reflect all areas of the population are often better able to understand and represent their customer base, which in turn generates maximum growth. Greater diversity creates a different range of perspectives that can help to fuel more effective innovation. In fact, a report by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development found that closing the gender gap could increase GDP in the US by as much as 10%. Addressing gender divides should not be a matter of lip service, it is in a company’s best interests.

Managing IP has launched its Women in IP Network, a platform aimed at bringing together women IP professionals. Our EVP of Sales, Joan Mill, was interviewed as part of the Women in IP series to talk about her career in IP and technology. Joan has worked in many different areas, including law, finance and technology development, and admits she has always been ‘pleasantly encouraged’ by the industry’s openness to women. However, Joan knows there is still more to do in the pursuit of gender equality in STEM and IP; “‘I think it is my duty to do what I can to help other women.”