International Women's Day

Lee & Hayes believes that, collectively, we can help forge a gender-equal world. In recognition of International Women's Day 2021, we spoke with some leaders in our firm to get their unique perspectives on what challenges they may have faced, lessons they've learned, and how they are helping to cultivate equity and inclusion.


To read the entire transcript of our conversations, please read below!


Richard Denenny, Attorney, Partner

“You have worked with a lot of strong, intelligent women over your career. What does having women in leadership roles mean to you?”

I have been lucky to have been surrounded by strong, dynamic women my entire life, including my Mom. From hiking the Pacific Crest Trail at 50, to summiting almost every major mountain in the region, to tackling a new career, my Mom provided me with an incredible example. I have been lucky that my lifetime experience has translated to the work environment and I have been able to work with incredible women leaders everywhere I have worked, including at Lee & Hayes. For me, having women in leadership roles is critical for a number of reasons, including helping ensure a more inclusive workforce that looks at different perspectives.


Sally Teng, Ph.D., Patent Attorney, Partner

"You have a Ph.D. in Chemistry as well as a law degree and you attained them from ivy league schools.  Even with this impressive resume, have you felt marginalized in your profession?  Do you see more women entering STEM professions than when you first started out?"

I think because of my educational background, I have not felt marginalized in my profession. I am thankful to my parents for the way they raised me. My parents grew up in a generation and culture that believed educating daughters was not as important as educating sons, yet they provided their daughters and sons with the same opportunities and resources for a good education. At a young age, my parents instilled in me the need for a girl and a woman to be well-educated, and they encouraged and supported me so that I can excel in science and math. It is important to start early to nurture a child’s interest in science and math so that she can develop the confidence and strength to go further with it professionally.


Libby Zinke, Patent Attorney, Partner

"Advocating for diversity, equity, and inclusion is a passion of yours.  Tell us how you choose to challenge bias personally and professionally?”

As a woman in male-dominated fields (STEM and law), I recognize the importance of raising issues around diversity, equity, and inclusion to challenge the status quo.  At Lee & Hayes, I am the Chair of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee and, as a committee, we are consistently having conversations with our team members and leadership about how to create more diverse, equitable, and inclusive communities—both in STEM and the law.  In addition to offering mentorship and training to other women (and other team members of traditionally underrepresented groups), I am committed to ongoing education as it pertains to cultural competency to ensure that other women—and all other team members—have a true sense of belonging at Lee & Hayes.  Personally, I volunteer in leadership with Delta Gamma Fraternity, an organization that creates spaces for women to connect and develop leadership skills that are critical to professional success.  As a member of leadership, I work with other dedicated volunteers and staff members to ensure that we are continuing to protect these spaces for women and to deliver meaningful and valuable programming so that our members have their own tools to advocate for diversity, equity, and inclusion in their own communities.  I’m a firm believer that empowered women empower women and for that reason, I choose to use my existing platforms to do what I can to empower others.


Madi Das, Ph.D., Technical Specialist

“You are a mother, Ph.D., and work full-time in a competitive field.  What have you learned as a woman in a STEM profession that has helped you adjust to the challenges facing working mothers during the pandemic?”

A career in STEM promotes lifelong learning. Technology keeps evolving, so I have had to adapt and keep growing my knowledge base.  Adaptability and openness to learning new skills have helped me adjust to the host of challenges thrown at us by the pandemic. Also, with face-to-face interactions no longer possible in the workplace, it has become even more important to speak up, find common ground, and be able to connect with people of diverse interests. As a woman in a STEM workplace, these are skills I have had to work on throughout my career! And finally, as a mother, I have accepted that I do not have the time needed for a hands-on parenting style, so I have encouraged my children to be independent and self-motivated.


Chrystal Quisenberry, Ph.D., Technical Specialist

“What challenges in your life helped drive you to not only enter a competitive STEM profession, but continue your professional growth trajectory?”

I have been very fortunate to have amazing mentors in my life that have guided, supported, and given me the confidence to achieve what might otherwise have been challenging. These mentors encouraged, challenged, and supported me as an advocate to provide opportunities and protect me from unpleasant situations. I have been very lucky and am grateful that I too have had several opportunities to serve as a mentor to other young women. 


Carol Pratt, Ph.D., FDA/Regulatory Attorney, Partner

“You are a partner, lead the FDA/Regulatory practice, and by all accounts have excelled in your career.  What challenges did you face during your professional journey and what tools did you use to overcome them?”

When I was in high school I made a promise to myself that I would pursue work that I found compelling and contributed to society. I have done that through three careers (teacher/coach at the high school and college levels, neuroscience and, lastly, law), each of which beckoned to me in its own compelling way. Each of these careers has been enormously satisfying but also challenging because in each I was carving out new territory as a woman. I was a head coach at a Division 1 college (UMass) when I was 25 years old. I was the only woman in the lab where I got my PhD. As a first-year associate, I started an FDA practice at Davis Wright Tremaine. A challenge in each career has been not having women mentors in front of me or more women colleagues who understand the unique challenges of women working in male-dominated areas. It’s been more of an individual sport than a team sport, which I regret. But, I relied on tools I learned as an athlete in high school and college – commitment, diligence and preparation –  to succeed. My hope is that our profession becomes more of a team sport for women!


Rhett Barney, Attorney, Partner

“You are a father to 5 girls and 1 boy.  How are you choosing to raise your girls as strong women and your son as someone who understands the value of gender equity and inclusion?”

The first thing I can do, and try to do, for my girls to raise them to believe in themselves is to encourage and support my wife in her goals and ambitions. My daughters see her, they see what she is doing, that she is still pursuing her passions and interests, and that I support that. And when they see that as normal, that is what they will carry with them as they become adults. 

Similarly, I support them in their interests. Despite having a large number of daughters, none of them are alike. They all have different personalities, interests, and strengths and weaknesses. Some of them really like being feminine and cute and pretty, some of them prefer to play sports and get dirty. One already at a young age really wants to be a mom, one a teacher, one a marine biologist, and one a professional mermaid. I feel like it’s my job to support them for what they want to be, not what I want them to be, which can be really hard sometimes. And just as importantly, to help them have experiences that support their goals.

For my son, I hope that he sees me supporting his mom and sisters, and recognizes that as normal. Because he is so young, we have not had to have many discussions with him about treating women with respect. For him, he is the youngest, and with 6 females around him telling him what to do, he very much lives in a woman’s world. As he sees his sisters succeed and set a good example, I hope (and will encourage) that he recognizes how capable women are. And that it’s normal for them to succeed as people, as human beings. 


Bea Koempel-Thomas, Patent Attorney, Partner

“Lee & Hayes is an innovative law firm with Intellectual Property at its core.  As a partner and owner, what are some ways the firm  supports and encourages women to pursue a career at the intersection of STEM and law?”

Sometimes girls and women hear a lot of “girls can’t …; women don’t …,” and for a long time, we didn’t see women in STEM majors and male-dominated professions—even when we were there, our presence was merely tolerated, or we were a token if we were seen at all.  When I joined Lee & Hayes, the firm provided me a platform to serve world-class clients while exercising my leadership skills in a way that was unique.  Over time the firm encouraged my participation in outside organizations including the American Intellectual Property Association, where I met so many more women in IP!  Both the firm and AIPLA hold community outreach events, and we have had a lot of discussions about how to get more women (and other underrepresented groups) into the pipeline and how to keep them progressing up the ranks.  We believe that by interacting with girls and women from middle school through law school, we can encourage people who might otherwise have opted for a different path to consider studying STEM fields and to consider the intersection of STEM and the law—which is unique to our IP practice—and much different from working in a lab or coding.  As a partner and owner, I am proud of the opportunities Lee & Hayes can provide for girls and women to learn about IP practice and the support we’ve grown to provide for the women who pursue these careers at the firm.  My Mom says that from the time I was a little girl, my response to “you can’t …” or “you shouldn’t …” has been, “Oh, yeah … watch me.”  This year’s IWD theme, #ChooseToChallenge embodies that.  #LeeHayesLaw and #WomenInIP, watch us—better yet—join us!