International Women's Day 2021 - Sacco Mann Talks To... Joanna Thurston @ Withers & Rogers

5 Minutes

Catherine French talks to Joanna Thurston, Partner at Withers & Rogers about her respons...

Catherine French talks to Joanna Thurston, Partner at Withers & Rogers about her response to the Covid-19 Pandemic and what Joanna thinks we can take out of the Pandemic situation which will provide change for working Women. Joanna is a Patent Attorney in Wither & Rogers Life Sciences & Chemistry group. She is an active member of their Higher Education group, and leads their Home Care group.

Statistics show that women have been disproportionally affected by the pandemic whether that be by being more likely to have been made redundant / on furlough or taking the lead with home-schooling whilst juggling work, whilst other statistics show that increased working from home and flexibility will allow for positive steps forward for women in work. 

Now as we start making steps to move out of lockdown and towards ‘normality’, what do you think the lasting effects from the pandemic will be for women in IP?

There’s been a general realisation across the profession that success includes a happy work force, with a good work-life balance.  As a result, many firms will be offering increased flexibility around working practices, not only in terms of working from home but also in terms of the hours worked, e.g. shifted hours and breaks during the day.  
As we work our way out of the pandemic, the challenges presented by home-schooling will gradually disappear, but other responsibilities will not. With many women taking on a large share of responsibility for running a household or caring for others, lasting flexibility from employers will certainly be welcome. 
Increased flexibility may even open up the IP profession to women who wouldn’t previously have considered a career as a legal secretary, patent or trade mark attorney because of the long, inflexible hours that were required. 

Withers & Rogers are a modern, progressive, responsive and growing business with a prestigious heritage. They work with some of the most advanced and renowned companies in the world.

Reflecting on the last 12 months, what have been the biggest challenges for you personally and what are the positives you would like to keep and take forward?

It has been very difficult not seeing family, in particular my parents. I’ve neither seen nor been able to care for them during this time, which has made me value that relationship more than ever.
Something that’s worked well for me is working from home. Unlike many people, I am a huge fan of video conferencing. Being able to meet with clients, colleagues and friends from the comfort of my own home has made me feel much more connected to them. Rather than infrequent face-to-face meetings, we are now seeing each other much more regularly and our relationships are stronger as a result. 
I’ve also managed to use some of the time I would have spent commuting to improve my health and well-being through yoga and meditation. I’ve even had the time to pick up hobbies that lapsed not long after I started work; I’m baking (such a cliché) and sewing again – something that I’ve not had the time to do since the 1990’s!

What piece of advice do you wish you could go back and give to yourself at the beginning of 2020?

The bottom line is, anything that happens in our lives has the potential to be as big or as small as we decide to make it. The only thing we can truly control is our response to a situation. 
As many firms are revaluating working environments, flexible working policies and benefits packages to ensure they’re relevant post-pandemic. What things do you feel make the biggest impact for women in the workplace?
Flexible working policies have the largest scope to impact women in the workplace. By enabling employees to choose their place of work and allowing a certain amount of flexibility over when their hours are worked, employers are making it easier for women to juggle multiple responsibilities. 
Additional benefits packages are also extremely important for those with caring responsibilities. Measures such as extra paid leave are beginning to bridge the gap where unpaid work is concerned and help provide a better work-life balance.

What is the thing you are most looking forward to doing once we’re finally in the ‘new normal’?

Hugging my mother and father, who I haven’t seen since their 50th wedding anniversary party in February 2020.