Page published on 25th January 2024
Page last modified on 25th January 2024


In this guest post, patent engineer Katrina Scanlan shares her thoughts about the impact of a minority ethnic background on her own and other people’s perceptions and on her career journey so far. We hope you’ll find these insights both inspiring and thought-provoking. There is always more that all of us can do to understand, include and support people from different backgrounds to our own – and how fitting when allyship is IP Inclusive’s key theme for its 2023-25 business plan!

Katrina writes:

I feel excited to have stumbled across the organisation IP inclusive that champions diversity, inclusion and wellbeing in a field I’ve become passionate about.Β I felt compelled to contribute to knowledge-growth on the topic of diversity and intellectual property.

My name is Katrina Mayowa Scanlan (she/her) and I am Scottish born (Glasgow to be specific) and of Nigerian ethnicity. My family are of the Yoruba people (a West-African ethnic group from Nigeria). My academic background is in chemistry. I graduated with a PhD in materials chemistry in 2018, obtained from the University of Strathclyde. My thesis is entitled “Tetrathiafulvalene-oligofluorene starshaped systems: new semiconductor materials for fluorescent moisture indicators”. I have a passion for learning and grasping the mechanisms of products, methods and generally the modus operandi of “things” (for lack of better words).

In 2018, I was offered an opportunity to undertake a role as a patent trainee in Belgium. Therefore, I upped and left my beloved Glasgow (haggis suppers, Irn Bru, the wonders of a breakfast roll comprising all the fried protein one can imagine, alongside a smudge of ketchup, and the friendliest people I’ve ever known) for the gorgeous city of Ghent (stoofvlees, waffles, chocolate and the practicality of Flemish culture).

While I am an ethnic minority, being raised in Glasgow I wasn’t often made to feel any different from the broader society (perhaps there was an unawareness on my part). For instance, my family integrated with the Scottish culture and a lot of our neighbours were not only friends but became like family.

When I entered into more educated spaces and travelled more often for professional reasons, I became slightly more aware of individuals with broader views, opinions and experiences of ethnic minorities and, in my instance, Black women. I often noticed that these broader views, opinions and experiences of Black women could often be understood as more negative than positive. There have been doors that most likely have opened up for me, in-part because I am a Black female, and there have been doors that have most likely closed for me, in-part because I am a Black female.

My experience in patent law has contributed greatly to my understanding of the world. I (we) cannot control how individuals perceive me (us), or what they claim to know about me (us). For instance, I (we) will never know if I had a negative professional experience because of my ethnicity or simply because it wasn’t a “click”. I (we) will never know if a situation was handled with bias, in-part because of my ethnicity. Unfortunately, this is a reality of the world and those who choose to say that it is not have unfortunately failed to approach this subject with humility, history and statistics.

A lot of factors make me special – as a Black female with a PhD in materials chemistry, I am not the majority. As a Black female patent engineer in Europe, I am not the majority and as a Black female expat in Belgium born in Glasgow, I am definitely not the majority. I will forever briefly hold someone’s attention either in a positive or negative light, based on that individual’s personal experiences – or lack thereof – with people of my gender and/or ethnicity. Some people may bring their pre-conceived opinions to the workplace.

In a professional context, being a minority can cause an extra layer of complexity in one’s life. Maybe, even wearing your natural hair to work causes anxiety because it is a badge of diversity (and I mean this in the most positive sense).

I’ve never met a patent professional in Belgium with the same skin hue as me. I’ve also never met a patent professional in Belgium from the west-end of Glasgow. It would certainly make me feel more comfortable. Nonetheless, life isn’t always about being comfortable. It’s about thriving, making the best out of all opportunities and treating others as you would yourself.

Some days are harder than others. Some people are ruder than others. However, I am exceptionally grateful to be a part of the patent field and I have met some incredible individuals (not of the same ethnicity) with their own incredible stories who are also minorities in a different category. As I said earlier, I (we) will never be able to control how individuals perceive me (us). Keep trailblazing!

Photo of Katrina Scanlan

Katrina Scanlan

Comments: (3):


What an amazing reflection and contribution to an important subject! Your openness to share and be a voice to the voiceless shows who you are. Continue to be a model for this generation and the generation to come. This I call hope , awareness and change in progress. Well done Katrina !

Dinah SteppΓ© - Mndebele


Keep on growing! Let the hard times shape you into an even stronger warrior!



An incredible insight into a personal journey. Keep on trucking Katrina,

Morayo Scanlan

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