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To Increase Diversity in IP, Education is an Internal and External Matter
Education is a vital aspect of increasing diversity in IP, and this education must take place both within IP organizations and in the greater community. Students and their families need opportunities to learn about STEM careers. Within firms and companies, personnel need to learn about barriers that exist and how to combat them. While we are thankful for the diversity we have achieved at Schwegman Lundberg & Woessner, further advances must be made. To encourage dialogue, we are happy to discuss steps we have taken to support this goal. Increased diversity is a need within our community, and our community must work together to make meaningful progress.
Internal Diversity Education
Internally, discussion and reflection can be brought about by holding firm-wide diversity trainings. Dedicating time and resources to these trainings shows that an organization is serious about supporting fairness and equity. In recent years, Schwegman Lundberg & Woessner hosted firm-wide trainings about Gray Area Thinking© and Mindful Empathy. This year we engaged Kristin Haugen of Rock Solid Consultants to provide a training about implicit bias. Originally planned to be in-person, this training was rescheduled as a webinar due to the COVID-19 crisis. Mitchell Hamline School of Law co-sponsored the event, and the webinar was open to the public. This training caused participants to consider how subconscious assumptions could affect their personal reactions.
As with the implicit bias webinar, often trainings that are organized internally can contribute to the wider IP community. In August of this year, our firm hosted the Destination IP Virtual Summit. One of the most popular sessions in this online conference was entitled, “Diversity & Inclusion: Can the Pandemic Help Us Work Toward A More Inclusive New Normal?” In this webinar, guest speakers Marla Butler of Thompson Hine LLP, Nicholas Leach of Chevron, Ron McCray of AH Belo Corporation, and Macey Russell of Choate, Hall & Stewart LLP joined Schwegman’s Piers Blewett and Suneel Arora for a panel discussion. The session was sponsored by ChIPs. Our guests discussed concrete, practical steps that must be taken for meaningful change to take place in law firms and legal departments.
Topics discussed included mentorship, barriers and feedback. We are grateful for the speakers’ time and honest thoughts.
In other efforts, this summer our Diversity Equity and Inclusion Committee sought anonymous firm-wide input regarding ways to support fairness and equity at our firm. Listening—and providing a safe forum for feedback—are essential steps towards progress.
External IP Education
In addition to supporting diversity within IP organizations, it is also important to help the greater community have access to IP education. IP careers can be rewarding and fascinating, yet many students may not have access to the possibilities. Schwegman has included community outreach as a key aspect of its diversity efforts. We have supported organizations for traditionally underrepresented groups in the legal field, as well as organizations that help traditionally underrepresented groups learn about opportunities in IP. In recent years we have enjoyed sponsoring, attending, or hosting events such as the 2019 OutFront Gala, Girl Time at The Works Museum, SCU Diversity and Inclusion Gala, the BALIF (Bay Area Lawyers for Individual Freedom) Annual Gala, Girls Day at the Tech, and Girls at The Tech Luncheon. In a program started by the IPO, it has also been our privilege to work with many Girl Scouts as they earn their IP Patches. Volunteering in the community is personally rewarding for our attorneys; students’ excitement about the possibilities ahead of them is contagious.
Increasing diversity in IP benefits all concerned. Especially in these difficult times, members of the IP community are often very fortunate. We must use our platform and resources to help more people access these opportunities. Education, both internal and external, is a crucial aspect of this journey.