International Women's Day Profile - IPIC Treasurer - Paula Clancy
Marked annually on March 8th International Women's Day (IWD) is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity. Participation is witnessed worldwide as groups come together to celebrate women's achievements and rally for women's equality. This year's campaign theme is ‘Break the Bias,’ whether deliberate or unconscious, bias makes it difficult for women to move ahead. Knowing that bias exists isn’t enough, action is needed to level the playing field. In celebration of this day IPIC will highlight prominent women members who are just some of the many incredible women within the IP profession.
Paula Clancy, Partner, Gowling WLG (Canada) LLP, IPIC Treasurer
Paula Clancy is a partner and trademark agent in Gowling WLG's Ottawa office. She is a member of the Intellectual Property Group and her practice focuses on trademarks.
Paula has more than 26 years of experience as a corporate/commercial and trademark lawyer, and she is certified by the Law Society of Ontario as a Specialist in IP (Trademarks). Her background in business law and intellectual property law is a valuable asset to her clients.
Paula works with in-house counsel as an extension of their legal team to assist with trademark filing strategies, global portfolio management, and procurement. Her clients range from start-ups and SMEs to prominent public companies, including a number of global brands. These clients operate in industries including, technology, fashion, consumer goods, cosmetics, food and beverage, sports, banking, manufacturing, and life sciences. Paula also has experience working with women-owned and minority-owned businesses.
Paula is very active in the intellectual property community, and has recently been nominated to serve as a director of the International Trademark Association (INTA) for the 2022-2024 term. She also currently serves as director and treasurer of the Intellectual Property Institute of Canada (IPIC); Canada's national delegate for the Interamerican Association of Intellectual Property (ASIPI); and director of the International Association for the Protection of Intellectual Property AIPPI (Canada).
Paula is a past recipient of the Ottawa Business Journal's Top 40 Under Forty Award and Distinctive Women Magazine's Entrepreneur of the Year Award. She was a finalist for the Women's Business Network's Businesswoman of the Year Award.
Prior to re-joining Gowling WLG (she practised with the firm from 1994-2008), Paula founded and operated a boutique intellectual property firm in Ottawa. Her firm was ranked in the WTR1000 as a leading Canadian trademark prosecution firm; was certified by WBE Canada as a Women Business Enterprise; and was selected as an Amazon IP Accelerator firm. As a founder and entrepreneur, Paula has picked up valuable insights that help her effectively advise start-ups and SMEs. She knows from experience how to help them navigate their pain points and challenges.
Why is equality, diversity, and inclusion important to the IP profession?
EDI is important to the IP profession for both moral and business reasons. From a moral perspective, the IP profession must be reflective of our broader society. By having varied perspectives we create a more vibrant and representative profession. From a business perspective, studies consistently show that the most diverse companies outperform less diverse ones. By investing in EDI initiatives, IP firms can attract better talent, create broader problem-solving frameworks, and ensure more creative decision-making.
Which of your accomplishments are you most proud of?
Looking back on the last 25 years, I am most proud of having balanced a busy and challenging legal career with a rich and rewarding family life. I have 6 children, ranging in ages from 13 to 25 and of course they are my biggest source of pride and happiness. It was important for me to show my children (and especially my 4 daughters) that it is possible for a woman to have a career and to be ambitious without sacrificing the incredible joy of motherhood. In my view, one of the biggest challenges that professional women face is navigating the child-rearing years – it’s so important to ensure working mothers are supported and valued, rather than marginalized and side-tracked.
This year’s theme for International Women’s Day is “Break the Bias” (Whether deliberate or unconscious, bias makes it difficult for women to move ahead. Knowing that bias exists isn’t enough, action is needed to level the playing field), what actions do you believe need to be taken in the IP profession to Break the Bias.
Half the battle is recognizing that biases are often unconscious. Many of us are unaware of our inherent biases. Facilitating discussions and raising awareness is a good first step. Sharing experiences is also important so that we can begin to understand how these biases affect and hurt people. My mother emigrated from Chile in her 20s. Despite having a PhD, she has often experienced condescension and rude behaviour because of her Spanish accent. I read somewhere that “culture is defined by the worst behaviour tolerated”. We need to shine a light on, and reduce our tolerance for, poor behaviour if we want to change the culture.
What do you believe are the best ways individuals can challenge biases and inequalities to achieve change?
Each of us is responsible for EDI – it is something we can implement in our own spheres of influence by being more aware, more informed and more sensitive. We must teach our sons and daughters to be inclusive and to embrace diversity. We cannot expect these values to take hold on the next generation if we don’t champion EDI within our own homes.
What advice do you have for aspiring women IP professionals?
Band together – there is so much power in a team of women! Some of my greatest supporters have been other women IP professionals (you know who you are!). Also, don’t be discouraged by, or afraid of, rejection – embrace it, it will make you more resilient. Finally, feel free to customize and shape your own goals – your goals don’t have to match those of others around you. Given my Chilean background, family was an important goal for me – I took a long path to partnership, but it was worth it because I achieved my goal of having a big, beautiful family.
What will be the biggest challenge for the next generation of women leaders in the IP profession?
I see the future for the next generation of women in IP as being very exciting - we are seeing so many amazing women in leadership positions in law firms and organizations across the country. Of course, we need to continue to work towards increasing the number of women inventors, ensuring women-led businesses have equal access to funding, encouraging girls to pursue studies in STEM, recruiting BIPOC women into the field of IP law, and supporting the next generation of women IP professionals during child-rearing years.