We Have to Be Our Own Best Advocates

Today, women continue to face gender bias in the workplace. And, when you are a woman of color like me—I’m Asian American—you also have to deal with racial biases. These biases can profoundly impact whether women are hired or promoted, staffed on career-defining cases or projects, or sought after for influential leadership roles.

I’m fortunate to work at a law firm that celebrates diversity (I am part of one of the country’s most diverse Intellectual Property trial teams) and with mentors who have provided me with numerous opportunities to showcase my legal skills, promoted me to partnership, and have supported me throughout my legal career, which has allowed me to flourish.

Patent litigation still remains largely dominated by Caucasian men. I am often the only woman or person of color in the room. On one occasion, a judge whom I appeared before, uncharacteristically commented on the lack of diverse attorneys before the court on one particular day because of the half dozen attorneys there for a certain defendant, all of them were Caucasian men.

On numerous occasions, I have walked into a courtroom where the majority of the people were Caucasian men who are older than I am. And, because I’m a petite Asian American woman, they did not take me seriously—at first. Some have mistaken me for a paralegal or a secretary rather than an attorney who is lead counsel for clients, implicitly implying that women are only suited for certain roles.

Instead of allowing these experiences to discourage me, I use them as fuel. Since they don’t expect someone like me to be smart and highly capable, and have an opinion and a voice, when I zealously advocate for my clients, whether at the negotiation table or in the courtroom, they are often surprised by my legal acumen, which has been very beneficial to my clients.

We, as women, bring a unique perspective and a fresh approach to the table, and this diversity in thought and opinion is vital to coming up with solutions to resolve our clients’ complex issues. And, until the playing field is leveled for us, we have to continue to be our own best advocates.