We are very pleased to learn that Andrea Brewster, Leader of IP Inclusive, has been awarded an OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for services to intellectual property. Among her many contributions to the IP sector, Andrea has, of course, championed the importance of equality, diversity and inclusion in the IP professions, particularly when, as CIPA President, she created the cross-profession diversity task-force that is IP Inclusive.
Please see CIPA's press release, which outlines just some of Andrea's services to IP and IP Inclusive.
Andrea writes: "I wanted to share some exciting news with you. My name appeared in the Birthday Honours List this morning. I'm to be awarded an OBE for "services to intellectual property".
This almost certainly has a lot to do with IP Inclusive, which I've been delighted to watch growing in strength and scope since we set it up in 2015. The award is therefore testament to many, many people's hard work, enthusiasm and commitment, across the IP professions. All I did was to persuade people to say "yes" when they might not otherwise have done so. So in a way it belongs to all of us, and I suggest that all of us celebrate. I certainly will be!
Thank you for everything you've done to make IP Inclusive what it is today: a truly collaborative and inclusive project that's starting new conversations, opening new doors, and hopefully making all of our workplaces more diverse and inclusive. Thank you for your suggestions and advice, for the time and energy you've committed, for the venues offered and the money donated and the hard work undertaken under the IP Inclusive banner.
Between us, we have much to be proud of".
Congratulations Andrea, from everyone involved with IP Inclusive!
This morning, many IP professionals attended the Diversity in IP breakfast in London, which was organised by AIPLA, CITMA, CIPA and FICPI-UK. At the event, there was much talk about the reasons why IP organisations should think seriously about diversity and inclusion - staff happiness, employee retention, job satisfaction, client wins and client retention were just of the motives mentioned by the speakers. (See our Twitter feed for more of the points made during the event).
Once you are convinced that equality, diversity and inclusion are important, you may wonder what you and your firm needs to do next. Today's blog article has kindly been provided by Victoria Barker, Associate at Kilburn & Strode LLP, and is about her and her firm's efforts to improve diversity, and in particular, gender equality, in the workplace. Kilburn & Strode are one of our Charter signatories.
Victoria writes: "The 2013 book by Sheryl Sandberg, Lean In, has undoubtedly been controversial. In the book Sheryl explores factors that may hold some women back in the workplace, mostly by looking at her own experiences. For example, she mentions creating special parking spaces for pregnant women near the front door to her employer’s building when she was faced with a long walk across the car park during her own pregnancy. The book aims to inspire women to take a more active role in developing their career, and encourages men to provide support for women so they can do this. Not all of Sheryl’s comments have been well received, with some critics calling the book little more than a manifesto for privileged white women. Nevertheless, by starting a conversation on gender issues in the workplace, the book has led to the formation of more than 32,000 “Lean In Circles” in 151 countries worldwide.
"Lean In Circles" are groups of like-minded people of both sexes coming together to discuss issues that affect (primarily) women in the workplace. Circles can be big or small, open to new members or closed, physical groups or online-only - whatever suits the members best. Some of the Circles are affiliated with an employer, others with a geographical location, and still others with a specific career path or job title.
In April, Kilburn & Strode joined the Lean In community and held our first Circle meeting.
One of the ways IP Inclusive aims to make the IP sector in the UK more diverse and inclusive is by creating support groups for 'minority' groups working in IP. As previously mentioned on this blog, IP Inclusive decided to create these groups in response to feedback from people within the IP sector who felt that such groups would provide them a 'safe' network in which they could share advice and support. Having these networks and connections can help some people feel more included and less isolated in the profession or their workplace.
So far, IP Inclusive has set-up IP Out and the Women in IP groups. We are now pleased to announce that we have set-up IP & ME - a support group which is open to anyone in the IP professions who shares IP Inclusive’s values, but is particularly for ethnic minority IP professionals.
You can find out more about IP & ME on their group page on this site. You can also attend IP & ME's first informal meetup, which is taking place in London on Thursday 22nd June, between 18:30 and 20:30 at The Old Bank of England pub. Come along to the meetup to find out more about the group, meet committee members and other IP professionals, and learn how you can get involved in the group. For more information, see the group page.
If you would like to keep up-to-date with IP & ME's activities, please subscribe to their mailing list. (See the group page for the sign-up form).
Today's blog article has kindly been written by Rhys Williams and is a reflection on his thoughts on diversity and inclusion, from the point of view of a self-“confessed” white, Oxford educated male. Rhys is a partner in Abel & Imray’s Cardiff office, and a member of the firm’s diversity and inclusivity group. Abel & Imray are one of our Charter signatories.
Rhys writes: "I’m a white, Oxford educated, male, so why should I care about diversity? After all, at my firm we employ graduates from both Oxford and Cambridge, so how much more diversity do you need? I suppose we could start looking at Imperial…
My background is fairly liberal, from a family with a mother who did two Open University degrees when we were small, and who fought the coal board in the 1970s for equal coal allowance (and who certainly has short shrift with any sexist behaviour or jokes). I went to a comprehensive school in a middle-class town, and a small, liberal Oxford college known for being an LGB college and taking the most state school students. My paper of choice is the Guardian (though I did throw my Birkenstocks out a few years ago). I sort of assumed that the battle had been won, that no one needed to be marching for equal rights etc. as who would discriminate against someone because they were a woman, gay, lesbian, black, disabled? This is 2017, not 1977.
I listened to experiences of female university friends, many in mainstream professions working for big, multinational companies, with some scepticism that the sexist comments they reported were really made, or whatever was said was misinterpreted by someone looking to be insulted. But these stories began to build up, and I realised that whilst some major battles have been won, there are many forms of discrimination and bias that continue to affect people every day.
Today's blog article has kindly been provided by IP Inclusive Charter signatory Beck Greener and is about their project to encourage young people to consider a career in the STEM sectors. Beck Greener have been shortlisted for an award for this project.
James Stones and Catherine Jewell of Beck Greener write: "Here at Beck Greener, we are delighted to announce that we have been shortlisted for the Heart of the City Award in this year’s Lord Mayor’s Dragon Awards, for our "STEM: Branching Out" project.
The aims of the project are very much in line with the good work that CIPA and IP Inclusive are doing to raise awareness of the profession among young people, and include inspiring and encouraging young people to consider a career in the STEM sectors, including the patent profession. We hope in particular to reach students from sections of the community that are currently under-represented in STEM careers generally, and the IP profession in particular, thereby improving diversity and social mobility in these sectors.
Organised by the City of London, the Lord Mayor's Dragon Awards recognise excellence in companies' Corporate Community Involvement that benefits Greater London. The Heart of the City Award in particular recognises businesses that have set up a strategic approach to community engagement for the first time in the last three years.
Launched in June last year, the Beck Greener "STEM: Branching Out" project is a new initiative within the Community aspect of our Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Programme. The project involves a variety of activities aimed at promoting careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and raising the profile of the IP profession, while also providing our staff with opportunities to develop their skills in areas such as communication, leadership, presentation, and project-management.
Today's blog article has kindly been provided by Wynne-Jones IP and is a write-up of the event held they hosted jointly with the UK IPO during Mental Health Awareness week. The article contains practical tips on what you can to do improve your mental health, and explains what IP practitioners who attended the event have pledged to do to achieve a healthier work-life balance. Wynne-Jones IP is one of our Charter signatories.
"The IP profession can often prove to be stressful. Long days, complex legal issues, client-based challenges, and working to strict deadlines can often take its toll on the mental health of attorneys and support staff in this environment.
As methodical people who aim to find specific solutions to complex issues, it can be hard to accept when you are faced with a problem which simply can’t be fixed with logic. This often results in individuals becoming insular and suffering with issues such as anxiety, stress, and depression privately.
At Wynne-Jones IP, we recognise that it can be hard to open up about the private battles you may be facing and discuss your inner thoughts.
But just remember – you’re not alone.
In the spirit of supporting our peers in the IP profession, we recently held a very successful Mental Health Awareness Week event in conjunction with IP Inclusive and the IPO, which we fittingly titled: Get Off That Hamster Wheel! Perspectives on stress management for a better work/life balance.
The session, held on 11th May 2017 addressed the stigmas and common misconceptions surrounding mental health issues.
We welcomed a host of prestigious speakers on the day, who all spoke out about the importance of supporting those with mental health concerns, and recognising it to help alter attitudes in the workplace.
Tim Moss, Chief Executive Officer and Controller General of the UK’s Intellectual Property Office (IPO), opened the talk with an insightful comment about how far the profession has progressed in openly discussing mental health.
As often recognised, IP professionals can bottle up the stresses associated with the job for fear of seeming ineffective in their roles, weak, or simply a failure.
Thanks to events like this, it encourages people not to suffer in silence, but to open up to their colleagues about their daily struggles, and to accept their mental illness for what it is – an illness, for which IP professionals should receive support to cope with in a stigma-free environment.
Today's blog article has kindly been written by Neelum Dass and is a write-up of an excellent event held as part of Mental Health Awareness week. It is full of practical tips on what you can to do help yourself and others with mental health issues. Neelum is an associate in the Commercial IP/IT team of Bristows, one of our Charter signatories.
Neelum writes: "IP Inclusive and Kilburn & Strode recently hosted the talk “Surviving or Thriving” focussed on mental health in the work place. The speakers were:
The talk was structured as a Q&A session with three key themes.
1. Why talking about mental health is important
Poor mental health can easily lead to loss of balance in life which in turn could result in serious physical and mental problems such as depression or anxiety. Legal professionals are particularly vulnerable to stress and exhaustion given the high-pressure, demanding nature of their jobs. Initiatives like Mental Health Awareness Week are important because they put psychological health on the corporate agenda in an effort to break the stigma. For example, there is a widespread belief that a person with mental health issues is weak. On the contrary, Dr Mitchell considers that those who have struggled with this are actually more self-aware and conscious of what they need to do to achieve and maintain good health.
2. What you can do to help yourself
Dr Mitchell sees more lawyers than other professionals and suggested that perhaps this is because they are paid to identify risks and focus on what happens when things go wrong. The speakers offered practical tips to help manage mental health, for example, they encouraged people to access help at an early stage when feeling overwhelmed or exhausted. Something as simple as a good conversation early on could prevent someone from going down the wrong path.
In the debate about gender equality, terms like “positive discrimination” and “quotas” get a bad press. Both men and women tend to feel uncomfortable with the concepts. But it’s time we got real about this. We do not yet have equality in the workplace. After years of anti-discrimination laws and equal pay legislation, there is still a significant gender pay gap. Women are still not well represented in the board room. There are still assumptions about female roles, and corresponding biases, that affect people of all genders.
Something needs to be done. And that something requires us to be bold. Fussing about positive discrimination being unethical is for the person who wants to preserve the status quo or the one who’s reluctant to cause trouble. And unfortunately that does appear to be our choice: to stir up trouble, or to make scant progress.
The key questions are: is the status quo really good enough? Will the current pace of change – often painfully slow – suffice? Is it OK for our own children to suffer discrimination, and their children too? For me, no. I think we all deserve better.
Facebook recently announced that they will require women and ethnic minorities to account for at least 33% of the law firm teams they engage. I salute them for that. If you cannot see for yourself that, say, 10% women is inappropriate, then someone must step in and say it for you.
So what are the arguments that make us wary of positive discrimination?
The UK IPO recently unveiled its Corporate Plan for 2017-2020. Among its key goals for the next three years is to improve the skills and capability of its people. The Plan emphasises the importance of creating an organisation "where difference is valued and one where our people feel able to bring their whole selves to work". It includes a Ministerial target to secure external validation of the IPO's approach to inclusion for under-represented groups.
IP Inclusive applauds the IPO's stance on these important issues and is grateful for the Office's continued support and collaboration, which sends a message about the value and credibility of IP Inclusive's own work in the IP professions. We have therefore sent the following letter to the IPO's new Chief Executive, Tim Moss:
"On behalf of IP Inclusive, I would like to congratulate your Office on the publication of its Corporate Plan for 2017-2020.
This is a question I addressed at our Mental Health Awareness Week event in Newport last night.
Unfortunately, there are still people who think that suffering from mental illness – even something relatively common like depression or anxiety – makes you a nutter, or a malingerer, or (perhaps most dangerous of all) simply not up to the job.
And in this high-powered, high-flying profession of ours, it’s tempting to think that IP simply is a stressful environment, so if you can’t take the pressure, perhaps you shouldn’t be here.
Yet by taking that line, we risk rejecting or side-lining many talented people. And those who stay are often miserable or afraid: afraid of weakness; afraid of failure. So they’re less productive than they should be. And we lose valuable time through absenteeism, or indeed “presenteeism”, when people spend inordinately long hours in the workplace merely to show their commitment rather than to achieve anything extra.
That’s an unhealthy, and divisive, way of working.