What can be done to increase diversity in STEM fields?

Eliminating artificial barriers to entry and incorporating diverse talent in positions of authority will diversify STEM fields. But mentorship is key. I come from a family of scientists – not lawyers. I prioritize mentoring younger attorneys who are trying to find their way in the profession without an existing network, such as from family connections. I had to navigate my legal career on the fly, and my experiences have led me to invest in helping others who are similarly situated.

When my mentees see me, an Asian American woman, serve as first-chair lead on my cases and as the relationship partner with major pharma/biotech clients, it demonstrates that leadership can come in many forms. With my firm’s support, I have been able to serve as a leader, namely as vice chair of Latham & Watkins’ Healthcare & Life Sciences Industry Group, a cross-disciplinary industry sector. I am also a former co-chair of the New York Women Enriching Business (WEB) Committee, with its mission of creating networking opportunities for women and colleagues and clients from diverse backgrounds.

Describe your experiences as a woman in a STEM career. What else would you like our readers to know about being a woman in a STEM career in 2023?

At the earliest stages of my career in patent litigation, I was often the only woman (as well as diverse woman) in the room — whether it was the courtroom, a client meeting, or even within the law firm environment. And yet, some of my formative mentors were neither women nor individuals from underrepresented backgrounds. They bridged the gap and I have prioritized doing the same with my career.

As a patent trial lawyer, I frequently tap into my Midwestern background. I was a diverse female raised by Chinese immigrants who spoke Cantonese at home amid little diversity outside of our nuclear unit. But in many respects, I had a very typical Midwestern upbringing, thanks to friends and teachers who were inclusive. When I message themes at patent litigation trials, I tend to dwell on whether a theme will resonate with somebody from Cincinnati.

What else would you like our readers to know about being a woman in a STEM career in 2023?

In terms of being a woman in a STEM career in 2023, the world has changed for the better. Businesses are more attuned to issues of access and more accepting of differences. That said, although there have been great strides for women in STEM, we have a ways to go. Promoting more women to leadership positions can push that initiative forward.