Today's blog article has kindly been provided by Ben Buchanan, a UK IPO Diversity Champion, and is a summary of his presentation at Urquhart-Dykes & Lord's annual internal conference. Both the IPO and UDL are Charter signatories.
Ben writes: "On 16 June 2017 I had the pleasure of speaking on behalf of IP Inclusive to people from across the business at Urquhart-Dykes & Lord. UDL are IP Inclusive charter signatories and had invited a speaker from the IP Inclusive taskforce to talk to them at their annual conference about the work we do and how UDL could get involved.
The event provided a valuable opportunity to have a big conversation about why diversity and inclusion (D&I) is good for business – as well as being the right thing to do. It was also an opportunity to make sweeping assumptions, challenge them, and think about how – and why – to mitigate the consequences of unconscious bias in everything we do.
After an introduction to IP Inclusive and a recap of our recent achievements, I asked the conference delegates to think of as many differentiating characteristics – diversity categories if you like – as they could.
Interestingly the feedback moved rapidly on from protected characteristics and visually apparent differences, to things like educational background, ideological beliefs and values, culture, cognitive preferences and sources of motivation. Within the workplace, people were talking about length of service, seniority and working patterns. Outside work we talked about friendships, community ties and preferences for living environments.
We then reflected on these differences and how they can potentially benefit business performance and competitive advantage. How, by making the most of them, organisations can empower people to be themselves and do their best.
Today's blog article has kindly been provided by Fellows and Associates Ltd and is a more in-depth review of an excerpt from their 6th annual Salary Survey that has recently been published. The article focuses on the final part of their report that looks at discrimination within the workplace. Fellows and Associates are one of our Charter signatories.
Michele Fellows writes: “Every year, Fellows and Associates compile a salary survey of the Intellectual Property profession. We continually look to improve on it based on feedback and changes within the market place and this year, in support of IP Inclusive, we were particularly excited to take a closer look at discrimination within the workplace. We know that many firms have signed up to the IP Inclusive initiative and times have changed recently (although never as much as we would like) and as such we asked our respondents to focus solely on their experience within the last two years.
To put this into perspective, 88 of the 206 people who completed the survey had experienced discrimination of some sort. Of these 88 people, 67% had encountered discrimination of more than one type either directed at themselves or at someone else. This issue is definitely not exclusive to the UK, with both the UK and international contributors achieving almost the same ratio of those that had been discriminated against versus those that had not.
Our latest blog article is written by John F Kennedy, head of client services at specialist trade mark firm Wildbore & Gibbons LLP. John is originally from a brand development and professional services management background, and now specialises in brand protection. Wildbore & Gibbons is one of our Charter signatories.
John writes: "As one of the signatories to the IP Inclusive Charter, we are one of the firms promoting inclusivity and diversity in our sector. We are fortunate that in our 130 year history we have developed a diverse client base spanning a range of sectors, cultures, peoples and geographical locations.
Brands have always sought “exclusivity” in some form or another, to differentiate their products or service offering from their host of competitors. The new challenge in our highly scrutinized, 24/7 online media world is to be authentic, inclusive and transparent in all activities as an integral aspect of doing business - not simply as a clever marketing campaign.
The new brand challenge facing clients in every sector is to be more “inclusive” in every aspect of their business. This includes every facet of business - the operational; the logistical; supplier and distributor relationships and employee and stakeholder engagement.
Brand protection has always been founded on solid trade mark advice from your friendly neighbourhood trade mark attorney. The spectrum of protection has now expanded across a new brand continuum - overseeing brand and reputation management in every aspect of the modern business. Brand behaviour is not just minutely examined but any flaws not befitting the brand can be communicated and commented on in the online world in seconds. The “empowered” consumer can be a positive advocate, the “disgruntled” consumer can have a very negative impact on reputation and long term brand credibility.
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.
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.
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.
The IP Inclusive taskforce held its third annual round-table meeting on 7th February. Following updates from the four working groups on their 2016 achievements, we set our objectives for 2017.
Our key theme for this year will be the business case for diversity and inclusion. We will build this into our training events and outreach activities, so as to raise awareness, spark discussion and improve buy-in from decision makers in the IP professions. If you have any stories or thoughts to share on this, we’d love to hear from you: see for example our recent blog post on the topic.
During 2017 we hope to:
Michael Ford, a trainee patent attorney at Alistair Hindle Associates, is our latest guest blogger and discusses the business case for improving diversity in the IP professions. Alistair Hindle Associates is one of the signatories of the IP Inclusive Charter for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion.
"In today’s world of growing intolerance and fear towards difference, we all have a duty to make a commitment to diversity and inclusion. Simply put, our workplaces should reflect the society in which we live and diversity is the reality of that society. But we do not just have a moral obligation to commit to diversity – research confirms that a balanced and diverse workforce makes economic sense. In order to reap the economic benefits, diversity and inclusion should no longer be viewed as the preserve of the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) agenda, constrained to a committee or a work-stream; these ideals should instead be adopted as integral to a firm’s cultural and moral fibre.
Solid evidence underscores the business case for diversity. A diverse workforce will:
1. Improve innovation and creativity:
Publisher Malcolm Forbes once said that 'diversity is the art of thinking independently together' . The more diverse your workforce, the more you will benefit from the combined experience of people with different approaches and beliefs.
Case in point, a study by the Universities of Texas, Queens, Kentucky and Minnesota found that increased racial diversity in the top management of US corporations led to more competitive business actions, more creative advertising and greater sales incentives . A different study published in the Harvard Business Review also confirmed that, while companies with more diverse leaders tend to outperform competitors, female employees of companies without diverse leadership are 20% less likely than straight, white male employees to win endorsement for their ideas . In addition, the same study found that people from ethnic minority backgrounds are 24% less likely to win endorsement for their ideas, while for LGBT employees the rate of disadvantagement is 21%.
Bringing together a diverse group of employees and taking them seriously should ensure a business will get different points of view and different solutions to overcoming challenges. But it’s not just problem-solving which will benefit. The combined experience of the group will come with innovative and creative ways of working across all aspects of the business.