International Women's Day Profile - IPIC President: Stephanie Chong
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 'Choose To Challenge,' as a challenged world is an alert world, and from challenge comes change. In celebration of this day IPIC has introduced its IWD Spotlight Series featuring some of the many incredible women within the IP profession.
Stephanie Chong, President of IPIC
Stephanie is a partner with Hoffer Adler LLP, a Toronto boutique firm which focuses on franchising, corporate law, litigation and intellectual property. Stephanie practices exclusively in intellectual property law, with an emphasis on trademark acquisition, management, licensing, enforcement and strategy. Her clients range from SMEs to large multi-nationals in a broad range of industries.
Stephanie received her law degree from the University of British Columbia, and later returned to school while continuing to work full-time in private practice to obtain her Masters degree in IP Law from Osgoode Hall. She frequently speaks and writes on IP topics, and her papers have been published in national and international journals.
Stephanie is currently serving as President of the Intellectual Property Institute of Canada (IPIC), which is the country’s leading association for IP professionals. After many years of actively volunteering for IPIC and serving in roles including Chair of the Continuing Education Committee and inaugural Chair of the Indigenous IP Committee, Stephanie is proud to be the first member of the BIPOC community to be elected to the position of IPIC President. Stephanie is also an active member of the International Trademark Association. She has served as a Past Chair of the Canadian Bar Association’s National IP Section, and is also a member of the Federation of Asian Canadian Lawyers and the Association of Chinese Canadian Lawyers of Ontario. Stephanie has been recognized as a leading trademark lawyer by both the World Trademark Review and Best Lawyers Canada.
Outside of her professional activities, Stephanie volunteers for various community-based initiatives. She unwinds by spending time with her family in the great outdoors.
Why is equity, diversity, and inclusion important to the IP profession?
Increasing diversity brings with it an increase in experiences and viewpoints. This is valuable for all aspects of an IP professional’s job, whether that involves advising a client, running a firm, trying to get new clients, or providing education and training. Particularly given the global and innovative nature of IP, it makes eminent sense to have diverse teams of people who can bring different perspectives to the table. Diversity on its own is not enough, but must be paired with inclusion to help ensure that diverse views are actually considered at key decision-making points.
In terms of equity, I think most people have an intuitive sense of what that means, but it is actually a concept that defies simple explanation. From my perspective, equity includes the removal of barriers, whether systemic or otherwise, which may prevent individuals from being able to participate in the profession to the best of their ability. To take a simplistic example, a parent with young children may find it difficult to attend evening networking events, and if the system is set up so that this is the only way to effectively network, that parent experiences inequity within that system. In this example, a simple way to remove that barrier would be to foster other networking opportunities outside of evening hours.
Which of your accomplishments are you most proud of?
I am most proud of being a mom to my son, who is now 12 years old and growing up to be an amazing young man.
This year’s theme for International Women’s Day is “Choose to Challenge” which encourages individuals to call out and challenge gender bias and inequality, because from challenge comes change. What do you believe is the best way to challenge biases and inequalities to achieve change?
I don’t think there is a single best way; rather, it will depend on the situation and the individuals involved. That being said, my own personal style is to draw attention to issues in an informal manner and to try to start a conversation. Being confrontational does not tend to be productive, in my experience, and more can usually be achieved with patience and good listening skills. Also, when calling for change, it is important to be armed with facts and not just rely on anecdotal evidence.
What advice do you have for aspiring women IP professionals?
Be true to yourself. Know what is important to you and don’t compromise on your values; and remember that integrity is everything.
What will be the biggest challenge for the next generation of women leaders in the IP profession?
Although great strides have been made, there is still more work to be done. We are currently living in a time of heightened sensitivity around social issues, including those impacting equity, diversity and inclusiveness. Over time, it may become more challenging to keep up the momentum and avoid “issue fatigue”. Fresh approaches to keeping the issue of women’s leadership in the IP profession will have to be thought of and implemented. As IP professionals, it’s in our DNA to be innovative, so I am optimistic that the next generation will be able to keep these issues at the forefront where they belong.