“What I’d Tell my Younger Self”

By Robyn Hardisty, Trainee Patent Attorney

On Monday 28th June, Soni Basra gave a talk to “IP Futures” about “What I’d Tell my Younger Self”. IP Futures is an IP community for those in the first 5-6 years of their IP career.

Last year, Soni was appointed as the first female ethnic minority partner at Haseltine Lake Kempner. Soni achieved this while being a mother to two children and working part-time. While diversity in the workplace is increasing, women and those of an ethnic minority are still underrepresented in senior positions. It is therefore great for all of us in IP to not only see someone like Soni in a leadership role, but also to learn from her experiences.

During the talk, Soni chatted about her journey, including the impact of her gender and race and the challenges that she encountered. However, the main focus of the talk was what Soni wished she could have told her younger self if she could go back in time. This was distilled into three pieces of advice which should be helpful no matter your gender, ethnicity, sexuality, socioeconomic background, or disability.

Speak up for yourself

It is important to speak up for yourself and to make sure your contribution is not side-lined. The uncomfortable truth is that bias still exists in the workplace[1], whether it be a conscious or unconscious bias. Often this means that minority groups feel they have to work much harder in order to obtain the same recognition. It is important that all contributions are recognised and not overlooked.

Stand up straight and own your successes

It is well recognised that high-achievers from diverse backgrounds are prone to suffer an element of “imposter syndrome”.[2] It is therefore important to acknowledge your own success. This does not have to be “boasting”, but a recognition that for any achievement or piece of work well done, the success is well-deserved and not just down to “luck”.

Research suggests that women and those from an ethnic minority are less likely to “self-promote” and perceive their own performance in the workplace more negatively.[2] [3] Research shows that women are also less likely ask for a job promotion and are less likely to ask for a raise as compared to their male counterparts.[4] This exacerbates the problem that colleagues from a diverse background already face.

We should therefore try to get into the habit of being more confident in our own performance and owning our successes. For some of us, this is uncomfortable, and we tend to dwell more on any negative feedback, as compared to celebrating any positive feedback we receive. If you struggle with this, Soni suggested creating a “nice emails” folder to look at if you are having a bad day.

Support each other and build “support groups”

We should support each other, listen to and be compassionate to our colleagues, no matter what their background. The greatest benefits for an employer will be experienced when diversity and inclusion are completely embraced.

However, setting up support groups for people facing (or having faced) the same challenges can help to boost confidence and facilitate more open discussion. At HLK, this is in place, at least informally, across the firm. In my own experience, being open and sharing experiences with both my peers and my seniors, has been invaluable.

Thank you for the advice Soni, and I hope this inspires others to share their experiences too!

[1] https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/594336/race-in-workplace-mcgregor-smith-review.pdf

[2] https://www.forbes.com/sites/ellevate/2020/05/21/internal-and-external-challenges-faced-by-women-and-ethnic-minorities-that-make-them-more-vulnerable-at-work/?sh=708a61fb5c03

[3] https://hbr.org/2019/12/why-dont-women-self-promote-as-much-as-men

[4] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-38051951