Ideas to Innovation - Season Two
Tarianna Stewart: The wonderful thing about working in tech transfer on a university base is that you’re allowed to think bigger, to see the bigger picture. And it’s talking to that researcher and saying, you know what, you actually have a pretty interesting idea that can make a larger impact outside of your lab. And if you trust our office enough, because you know everyone thinks it’s their baby, you know, in the labs with your research, we can do something magical with it.
Intro: Ideas to Innovation
Neville Hobson: Today, more than ever, innovation is key to driving business growth and competitive advantage, with intellectual property or IP sitting at the very heart of this strategy. In recent years, we’ve witnessed some remarkable strides in bridging the gender gap in the IP sector. Some promising initiatives include, in the Philippines, government incentive programs that help women inventors and designers protect and enforce their IP rights. In India, the government offers an 80% fee reduction to startups and women entrepreneurs. Initiatives like these are springing up globally to support women inventors, designers and entrepreneurs. Yet according to the World Intellectual Property Organization, only around 16% of patent applications filed through its Patent Cooperation Treaty are from women. At this rate, they don’t expect to achieve gender parity before 2064. That’s almost 40 years into the future. So while progress is being made, clearly much more must be done more quickly to close this gap. Welcome to Ideas to Innovation, a podcast from Clarivate with information and insight from conversations that explore how innovation spurs incredible outcomes by passionate people in many areas of science, business, academia, technology, sport and more. I’m Neville Hobson. Closing the gender gap in IP and helping women inventors, entrepreneurs and IP professionals thrive is an ongoing passion of our guest in this episode. She’s built a career over two decades that embraces a blend of experiences in academia and the corporate world, including time with the IBM Research IP organization. I’d like to welcome Tariana Stewart, an experienced biomedical scientist and intellectual property professional with the Technology Opportunities and Ventures Unit at New York University in New York City. Welcome Tariana, thanks for joining us.
Tarianna Stewart: Hi Neville, I’m happy to be here.
Neville Hobson: So we’re about to dive into a topic that resonates with innovation, creativity, and some equality. But before that dive, tell us about your career and your work at NYU. What got you into this career? What’s your passion?
Tarianna Stewart: I would say like most technology professionals, it was by accident. I happened to learn about intellectual property during my PhD program. And I was like, this seems interesting and maybe a little bit better than working in the lab. So I ended up working at a few different law firms, drafting patent applications. And then I realized, you know, I’m not sure if I really want to work at a law firm. And so through the power of networking, that’s how I ended up at Georgia Tech as a licensing associate. And that’s where I really fell in love with the tech transfer space. And so for those of you who aren’t aware of it, so any university or even corporation that has some research unit, you have to have a technology transfer office. And that is essentially where the intellectual property lives, meaning all of the research, so anything that can be patented or early stage technology that can be licensed to a corporation or you know do like a startup, that’s all done through tech transfer. And so like you said I’m currently at NYU in that tech transfer office as a technology manager.
Neville Hobson: You’ve got an interesting job, it seems to me, perfectly suited to your keen interest in this whole area. You spent, I’m intrigued, you spent a lot of time at IBM a couple of years or so, two and a half, I think. Tell us a bit about what was what you were involved with there and its significance to your career in general going forward.
Tarianna Stewart: Yeah, so again, through the power of networking, I had a great opportunity to join IBM research and their intellectual property group. And so there I was licensing AI technology, in early stage, you know, AI technology research. And I also had a wonderful opportunity to work with our quantum computing team as well. And it was a great experience. I needed to have it because I wanted to have a strong understanding on an academic background but I realized I didn’t have a strong industry background. And so it was really pivotal at understanding how corporates thinks when it comes to licensing technology. What are their goals? Because I always make the joke as soon as I got to IBM, I was like, oh, you guys want to make money compared to academia to where it was just like, we’re doing it for the greater research. Well, here at IBM, there was a thing called quarters and there was goals and you had a CEO that you had to report to. And you had to make everything was related to the business initiatives. So that was a great experience for me.
Neville Hobson: That’s the other side of the coin, as it were, in terms of what you’re doing.
Tarianna Stewart: Right, because anybody in academia, you know, when you’re a PhD they always say don’t go to corporate, it’s going to the dark side. But then when I realized, I was like it’s not that dark over there.
Neville Hobson: Excellent, excellent. Tell me one thing, by the way, question. I know when we were talking previously about this involvement you had with quantum computing. And I understand if I understand it right, Tarianna, that’s something your role now is getting involved in with helping a researcher create a consortium in that area. Can you tell us a bit about that? In fact, maybe for our listeners briefly, can you tell us, and you have time, but IBM will help you. I’m sure. What is quantum computing?
Tarianna Stewart: Oh my goodness. You know what? I’m going to say this. If you ever meet somebody that can like really give you a definitive answer, they probably don’t know too much about quantum computing, right? I basically just describe it as a supercomputer. It utilizes quantum mechanics to solve complex problems faster than on classical computers. Meaning in terms of research, instead of spending years and years and years and years in a lab trying to figure out what chemicals go together to make a pharmaceutical compound, you’re able to do this in a shortened period of time. So for me that means advancement in research, getting medicine devices or even like in the banking industry, like tools to be able to expedite, you know, what their goals are.
Neville Hobson: Okay, but that’s good enough, I think. So, yeah, I think that’s fine.
Tarianna Stewart: Okay. I’m not a quantum scientist, so this is all coming from, I guess, the business side, the business case of it. So I will leave more details to the expert.
Neville Hobson: Yeah, you did pretty good with that though, I have to say. It was a great background for our conversation. I mean, your time at Georgia Tech, I know, was pretty foundational to your overall career progress. You were working alongside researchers, going into labs, evaluating the technology and determining their patentability. So with your interest and passion for this, it must have really been exhilarating.
Tarianna Stewart: Yes.
Neville Hobson: Tell us a bit more about your time at Georgia Tech. And I’m keen to know what was… How was that exhilaration? What drove that for you?
Tarianna Stewart: So when you’re a scientist, when you’re a student, you’re just singularly focused on your research. You don’t think about the worldly impact of it. And the wonderful thing about working in tech transfer on a university base is that you’re allowed to think bigger, to see the bigger picture. And it’s talking to that researcher and saying, you know what, you actually have a pretty innovation and an interesting idea that can make a larger impact outside of your lab. And if you trust our office enough, because you know everyone thinks it’s their baby, you know, in the labs, if you trust our office enough with your research, we can do something magical with it. Right? So it was exhilarating and, you know, using my, you know law firm experience in determining if something is patentable and then looking at the market, seeing if something we can commercialize, and then speaking to different companies, whether it’s like a pharmaceutical company or if it’s in the energy space or oil and gas or medical device, whatever it is. Talking to these companies and really finding out what their needs are and how this particular technology can be implemented into their already existing product to make a bigger impact. So that’s what I enjoy doing and I also really enjoyed talking to students because I wish somebody would have gotten a hold of me a lot earlier in my education so I can learn about IP because I didn’t know about that office. So I was like, I was thinking, oh my God, like maybe I could have had a patent, you know, before I graduated or, you know, or something along those lines. And so I love educating students, particularly women, particularly people of color, about this particular opportunity, and just helping them think about different career paths. So that’s part of why I really enjoy it, and there’s a course you know a lot more too.
Neville Hobson: Yeah, that’s really good. It made me think too about what I mentioned in the earlier part of this conversation from the World Intellectual Property Organization, that only 16% of patents come from women. So we don’t see a lot of invention disclosures coming from women. And so
Tarianna Stewart: No.
Neville Hobson: This is something, I guess you noticed that, you kind of observed that in your time at Georgia Tech, and I guess that’s an important part of what you’re gonna be thinking about at least at NYU.
Tarianna Stewart: Yeah, well thank you for bringing up invention disclosure because that’s a very important part of our office. A, making sure that people know about our office so they therefore can submit invention disclosures. And it’s very important to submit an invention disclosure because it’s basically like a time stamp, right? This is saying, you know what, I created this first before anybody and it’s on record. And that’s a great pathway to then getting a patent. You know, of course, if it can be patentable. But if you… or A, not coming from a lab that has a strong patent history to basically support you, that can be difficult. And they even see it in industry as well not just unique to IBM, but it’s unique to all sorts of corporations to where there isn’t that type of mentorship support for women and minorities to drag them, not drag them, to bring them along. I feel like it’s dragging sometimes to bring them along this process, this patent process. And two, it’s just… women are more women are more critical of themselves, right? Is this really a good idea? Is it novel? And I always like tell female researchers like that’s not your job. Your job is just to submit invention disclosures, come talk to us, and we can help you with this process. And then it might not be patentable this time, but maybe the next idea might be, but just keep on coming back to us and we can work together.
Neville Hobson: Okay, that’s a really great foundation, I think. So we’re going to consider in our way in this conversation, or rather discuss the idea of creating a world where women everywhere can pursue the passion for science and technology without the barriers that exist.
Tarianna Stewart: Yes.
Neville Hobson: So we know there’s a lack of recognition of women generally, and particularly in the US, I’m afraid to say, of black women. So it reminds me that earlier this year in March, for Women’s History Month, we published an episode of this podcast. that celebrated the achievements of black women in many areas of science, industry, and the arts, and other areas too. Our guest in that episode was Dr. Ashley Farmer, historian of black women’s history at the University of Texas at Austin. We’ll have a link to that episode in the show notes. But that is relevant because that focused particularly on black women, but it highlights this gender gap that exists everywhere for a variety of reasons. And of course, with black women in particular, that is embedded in the overall history. cultural history, racial history, et cetera, in the United States. But it’s still a big issue, I think. And it’s great we’re having this conversation that’s very much related to that story. So the question in my mind is, You’re going to play a key role in this from what you’ve just said now, in fact, Tariana, your role at NYU. So what’s your thinking about that? How can we foster this landscape? What have we got to do to enable it?
Tarianna Stewart: Yeah, so we’re living in a very interesting time right now. I’m going to pivot a little bit and say, I would much rather be a Black woman in 2023 than I would say like in 1923. We’re in a very unique time capsule I’m saying to where there’s a lot of opportunities that are happening. And particularly that did start with George Floyd, unfortunately. But that opened up a lot of doors. It got the conversation started where corporations were looking around and saying, you know what, our staff is not reflecting of our clients, right? So we need to do something, we need to hire to bring in more women and more minorities to represent the general population. So I myself, I took advantage of that moment in time. And I encourage a lot of other women and people of color to take advantage of this time and to seek those higher roles. And so partially, that’s why I ended up leaving IBM to go to NYU so I can have a higher position. There just seemed to be more opportunities for me to move up. And so I’m encouraging women and minorities to open up their eyes and take those opportunities so you can be in leadership roles, not necessarily for yourself, but also for the next generation. And so I’m hoping that my daughter, who is a third grader, by the time she gets into college, she will have more professors that are diverse. She will maybe walk into a law firm that has a… partners that are more diverse, meaning more women, people of color, even members of the LGBT community, or within a university structure to have more diversity. So part of what I’m doing is taking a hold of those leadership roles. And then also to, I definitely believe in creating a pipeline. So I am involved in what we’re calling the patent pipeline program, which basically gets a hold. of minorities that are in their PhD program or graduate program who are engineers. And we give them opportunities to basically enter into the patent profession, meaning we will train you for three to six months on how to adapt patent applications. And then we have different corporations that are sponsors of it. So at the time IBM was a sponsor, Meta, formerly known as Facebook, is a sponsor. We have other heavyweight corporations that are sponsors. And then… These students get to go in-house and learn how to draft patent applications. And then we say, okay, law firms, because sometimes, corporate corporations will outsource their patent work to different law firms. Say, hey, you know, if you want to continue drafting patent applications for us, we need you to be a sponsor of this program, meaning, a percentage of the work needs to be done by a woman or a person of colour if you want to continue drafting, doing work for us. And so we say, you know, here’s a great group of students. Now they are fully trained. They know everything about, you know, like the internal works of like, you know, the patent prosecution with this corporation. So now you need to hire them. And it’s been a great program. We’re in our third year and we’ve had about seven students graduate the program and then have full-time jobs working at these law firms. And whenever I talk to them, I tell them I did all this hard work. So that way you can become partner. And again, if my daughter wants to get into IP, she will see herself represented in these law firms. So like you guys need to do everything you can to work your butt up and become partners in these law firms, that’s what you wanna do. So that’s what I’m doing. And this can be done in any area of just creating opportunities for the next generation.
Neville Hobson: That’s a pretty outstanding objective, to create opportunity for that next generation.
Tarianna Stewart: Because people talk all the time. It’s great to talk about, oh, we need more women. We need more minorities. And honestly, I’m overhearing that talk. It’s like you need to create actual programs to help increase the number of women minorities. And not only create opportunities, retention. Because it’s one thing to hire. It’s another thing to hire and support. And so that’s like another key thing too that I feel like a lot of people miss out on.
Neville Hobson: You’ve outlined some pretty interesting things that I agree with you by the way, that a lot of talk about we must do X, but it kind of seems to be that’s always the talk. So this is taking it to a practical level that is good to highlight that difference. And you’re putting in place some aspects that should stimulate that.
Tarianna Stewart: Right.
Neville Hobson: So you’ve actually set the scene, I think, for what’s next in bridging the gender gap, if I can describe it that way. So. What you’ve talked about is the picture for today and some of the things you’re doing at NYU, but what about tomorrow? And in this context, that means 2033, 10 years from now. What’s the gap gonna look like then, especially in STEM and IP? How do you see it? What should we expect in the coming 10 years?
Tarianna Stewart: Well, in a perfect world, but who knows, it’s narrowing the gender gap, right? Hopefully there would be more initiatives like mentorship programs or scholarship or awareness campaigns that can contribute to the increased participation, representation of women in STEM. I mean, I just mentioned the program I’m a part of, the Patent Pipeline Program, but I hope more people take the initiative and try to create more programs like this. Maybe increase in female enrolment in some education, particularly in engineering. I think women have pretty much done well in forgiving for not having numbers, like in life sciences, but we definitely need more enrollment when it comes to the hard engineering programs. And I’m going to harp on it again, representation leadership roles. That’s why I am being overly aware of my career and where I want to go. And I’m being very intentional of making sure that I’m putting myself in a position that can have a leadership role. So that way, in 10 years from now, the next group, they can see themselves reflected in leadership roles. Because also to… in a leadership role, it allows you to hire other minorities without having that subconscious bias, right? Because people tend to hire those that look like them or some type of reflection in who they are. I just want to talk a little bit like, you know, policy and then advocacy too. I feel like government policy and any like industry initiatives could play a very crucial role in shaping the gender gap in STEM. But it’s things like, you know, supportive policies and like paid, work arrangements because people don’t even like to talk about that. Being a woman and being a mother, like that can have a huge impact too on your career advancements. I remember working in the law firm and they would have meetings at like 7.30 in the morning. And I looked around and I’m like, clearly none of these guys have ever taken their child to school because if you didn’t know that. It’s impossible to get your kid to school and then be in the office, this is back before COVID, and turn your computer on and be ready by 7.30 in the morning. So it’s like little things like that to where a corporation, industry, or law firm can shape internal policies to make it more acceptable.
Neville Hobson: Okay. I mean, that’s interesting what you said, I think. It just makes me think to the World International Property Organization’s estimation that by 2064, they will close the agenda, you’ve got 40 years away. I mean, surely we can, we, this is kind of like a royal week, collectively everyone, surely we can do better than that. Right? Shouldn’t’ that be a goal?
Tarianna Stewart: Yeah, of course, in a perfect world.
Neville Hobson: You’re not going to say no, I know. So related, I suppose, what I heard, what I hear you saying really is all the things you’re doing and all the things your institution are doing and what other bodies can do. What about women listening to our conversation in this podcast themselves? How can, what can they do to… take this forward, overcome the barriers to getting the work recognized through, for instance, publishing and patents. So you’re doing all these things, what should they be doing?
Tarianna Stewart: Don’t be afraid. That’s what I say. And just have the mindset that the worst thing that someone can say is no or ignore you and then just find somebody else. My grandmother used to say, you know, if they can’t let you in through the front door, find a back door or a window and crawl your way through. And so I’ve always just had that mentality, you know, like if there’s something that I want or there’s something that I know that I can do and good at, like I will just find a way.
Neville Hobson: Find a way, okay. That’s a great closing point, Tariana. I think a good point to conclude on. I’ve enjoyed this conversation with you. I must say thank you very much for that. It’s quite a topic we’ve discussed. We scratched the surface, but maybe it’s taking it one step forward. So thank you for your time with me on discussing this and sharing your knowledge and your insights. It’s been really great. Thanks a lot.
Tarianna Stewart: Absolutely, I enjoy my time here. Thank you.
Neville Hobson: Terrific, thank you. You’ve been listening to a conversation about helping women invent as entrepreneurs on IP, professionals thrive, accelerating innovation and creativity with our guest, Tariana Stewart at NYU Technology Opportunities and Ventures. You can find information about Tariana’s area of work at NYU.edu, search for Technology Opportunities and Ventures. For information about intellectual property at Clarivate and the work of women in this field, visit clarivate.com and search for Women in IP. We’ll be releasing our next episode in a few weeks time. Visit clarivate.com/podcasts for information about ideas to innovation. And for this episode, please consider sharing it with your friends and colleagues, rating us on your favorite podcast app or leaving a review. Until next time, thanks for listening.
Outro: Ideas to innovation from Clarivate.