Today's blog article has kindly been provided by Chris Burnett, IP Inclusive taskforce member and Associate at A. A. Thornton & Co., and is about how his firm approached the IP Inclusive Charter in order to put together their Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Policy. A. A. Thornton & Co. are one of our Charter signatories.
Chris writes: "I was involved with IP Inclusive fairly early on, and was keen that my firm should be among the first to sign the new Charter. I was confident that the partners would agree to sign the Charter, and was pleased that they readily agreed without me having to mount my soapbox (there’s a slight, slight, element of regret about this!). However, agreeing in principle to the commitments of the Charter was one thing; acting on them and bringing them to fruition is another thing entirely.
Fortunately, I could count on our Head of People, Karen Genuardi, to help. Karen had previous experience of implementing diversity and inclusion policies. We sat down and discussed how A. A. Thornton could make each commitment of the Charter happen, and more importantly, work for the firm:
1. The first commitment was easy: “Having in place a named individual within our organisation as Equality, Diversity and Inclusion officer. This person will be sufficiently senior to make change happen and to be accountable for our progress”. Karen gamely volunteered for this role, given her experience, and is part of the senior management team. The second part of the commitment is definitely important – it would be very easy to delegate the role to anyone with enthusiasm, but a partner, CEO or head of HR is much more likely to have the clout to ensure there is firm-wide buy-in.
Last night, IP Inclusive was awarded the inaugural Corporate Social Responsibility Award at the prestigious Managing IP Awards.
The annual event, which took place at The Savoy in central London, saw over 250 IP professionals celebrate successes and achievements within the international IP world. Among the accolades this year was Managing IP’s first ever Corporate Social Responsibility Award, presented to IP Inclusive for its work in uniting professionals throughout the IP world in the pursuit of greater diversity and inclusivity.
Andrea Brewster, Immediate Past President of The Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys (CIPA) and founder of the IP Inclusive movement, collected the award, commending Managing IP for making corporate social responsibility “one of the benchmarks by which we can both measure and celebrate progress in the IP professions”. Andrea commented: “I am thrilled to accept this year’s award on behalf of everyone who has worked so hard to establish and grow the IP Inclusive community over the last couple of years. IP Inclusive has been a catalyst for change but we have also had incredible support from our founding organisations CIPA, CITMA, FICPI-UK, IP Federation and the UKIPO, and from a huge array of volunteers across the country. We are proud to have launched so many inclusivity initiatives, such as support and networking groups, events, learning resources, careers information and a community of signatories to our Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Charter. My thanks to every single person who has chosen to become involved and thanks to Managing IP for recognising everyone’s efforts. I know that this award will spur us on to still greater things”.
Lesley Evans, Chief Executive of European IP firm, Haseltine Lake and leader of the IP Inclusive Charter initiatives also spoke at the presentation, urging the audience of international IP practitioners to spread the word about IP Inclusive in their own jurisdictions. Lesley commented, “This has been an extraordinary week for IP Inclusive. Not only have we celebrated our 100th signatory to our EDI Charter, but now we have received this amazing and unexpected award, which recognises the importance of increasing diversity across the IP professions. The IP professions are generally very open and welcoming, but they can be stronger and better still if they reach out and make themselves known to the widest possible workplace demographic. IP inclusive is giving us the tools and the impetus to do just that”.
2016 has been an eventful year, and not always in a good way. But as it draws to a close, I find myself with only positive memories of what IP Inclusive has achieved. And it’s time to say my thank yous. Because whilst I may have been the one standing at the helm, it’s been the many other committed supporters who’ve driven the ship forward, who’ve kept a look-out for threats and opportunities, and who’ve provided the vision and the passion to keep projects on track.
And these are unpaid volunteers, note: busy professionals all. IP Inclusive is powered solely by donations – of time, expertise, hospitality and finance – from the generous individuals and organisations that support us.
So, I would like to say a massive pre-Christmas “thank you”:
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When we developed the IP Inclusive Charter, the wording we used was purposefully broad to enable many IP organisations, as well as in-house IP departments, to sign the Charter. In practice, most of the Charter signatories (of which there are nearly 90!) are IP firms. Thus, the 'Best Practice' group within IP Inclusive has been trying to identify the barriers that may prevent organisations from signing the Charter.
We are pleased to announce that after discussions with representatives of IP Federation, some changes to the wording on the sign-up page for the Charter have been agreed which we hope will enable in-house IP departments to sign the Charter. In particular, we have made it clearer that senior managers in an IP department are signing the Charter on behalf of the IP department only, and that the IP Department will comply with the IP Inclusive Charter to the extent appropriate and possible within the larger organisation.
We hope we'll now be able to add more in-house IP departments to the list of Charter signatories! If you have any questions about the Charter, please do not hesitate to get in touch.
Yesterday's discussion on ethnic diversity in the IP professions (amusingly titled "The Unbearable Whiteness of IP") raised many interesting points about why IP law may not be attracting and/or retaining BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) talent, and what we can do to change this. (The reason why we need to change this is simple: diversity drives innovation).
Keynote speaker Maria Petnga-Wallace explained that studies show BAME employee attrition rates in the legal sector are high. This suggests that organisations in the legal sector may lose BAME talent because the workplace is perhaps not as inclusive and welcoming as it could be, and/or because there are no BAME role models (e.g. employees in senior roles or at management/board level). On the plus side, one in four children in school in the UK are from BAME backgrounds, so there is a huge pool of talent available for the IP professions to select from.
A quick survey of the audience suggested very few IP organisations monitor the ethnic background of job applicants. Maria explained that it is important for IP organisations to monitor the ethnic background of (a) job applicants, (b) applicants who are short-listed for interview, and (c) applicants who are hired, because this provides useful information for an organisation to determine where in their hiring process they may lose BAME talent as a result of unconscious bias. For instance, if an organisation notices that the percentage of BAME applicants for a job is low, perhaps the image portrayed by the organisation unconsciously discourages people from BAME backgrounds from applying? Similarly, if an organisation notices that the percentage of BAME applicants who are hired is considerably lower than the number of BAME applicants, perhaps the interview process needs to be analysed. One panellist agreed and noted that simply moving away from interviews conducted by two white men to interviews conducted by a diverse panel radically improved the diversity of new hires.
Lesley Evans, Chief Executive at Haseltine Lake LLP, provides a brief report on last night's IP Inclusive event in London.
"At an event on November 24th to mark the first anniversary of the launch of the IP Inclusive Charter for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, an audience of interested practitioners from many different parts of the IP professions came together to listen to a panel discussion on a topic that is perhaps overdue for public debate and consideration within the IP world.
The event was generously hosted by Charter signatory Carpmaels & Ransford, and partner David Wilson welcomed attendees and set the scene for an open and positive exchange.
Join us on Thursday 24 November 2016 for the next IP Inclusive reception. The reception will be an opportunity to bring together the EDI officers of all the IP Inclusive Charter signatories, as well as task force members and anyone else from the IP professions who has an interest in our work.
Carpmaels & Ransford are kindly hosting the event in their London office. The event will likely start in the late afternoon/early evening, and will include updates on IP Inclusive projects; a chaired discussion on bringing more BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic) professionals into IP; and a chance to share experiences and suggestions. We will finish with refreshments and informal networking.
More details will follow shortly, but for now, please save the date. If you haven't already done so, sign-up to the IP Inclusive Charter for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, which has a fantastic 76 signatories already!
The IP Inclusive Charter for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion now has 63 signatories from across the UK and from a wide-range of IP organisations. We are pleased that so many IP firms have signed the Charter. We also have one signatory from industry: the BOC Group's IP department has also recently signed the Charter. We hope more in-house IP departments will follow suit soon: the Best Practice work stream has been working with the IP Federation to determine how we can get members of that group on board.
We have received requests from organisations based in Europe, Canada and India to join IP Inclusive and to sign our Charter. While it's heartening to know that awareness of IP Inclusive has spread across the globe, at this point we are concentrating on improving equality, diversity and inclusion in the UK's IP law sector. At IP Inclusive's next plenary meeting, we will be discussing how to encourage and facilitate the sharing of ideas and best practices between the Charter signatories and, in the spirit of inclusivity, we hope to be able to share our thoughts with our supporters abroad too. So, watch this space!
For now, take a look at the list of signatories and check if your firm has signed the Charter. If not, why not?
Of course, if you think your firm is diverse, now is the time to shift your focus to ensuring your firm is also inclusive, as discussed here.
We have another #SecretDiary excerpt!
In this post, CIPA's Immediate Past President, Andrea Brewster, writes about the recent CIPA and AIPLA Diversity in IP breakfast meeting:
13 June 2016
In the last few weeks, the IP Inclusive Charter for Equality, Diversity and Inclusivity has acquired an additional nine signatories, bringing the current number of signatories to 55. The list of signatories on the IP Inclusive website will be updated soon to include the most recent signatories: Ipentus Ltd, EIP Europe LLP, Wood IP Ltd and Charles Russell Speechlys LLP.
Thank you to all who have signed the Charter so far - with your committment and support, we can make the IP professions more supportive, diverse and inclusive.
If you're wondering whether your organisation should sign the Charter, did you know:
If you're still unsure about whether you can or should sign the Charter, get in touch.
We're pleased that in the space of a few months, the IP Inclusive Charter for Equality, Diversity and Inclusivity has acquired over 45 signatories. The signatories hail from all across the UK (from down in Somerset, to Newport in Wales, and up to Edinburgh), and from a wide variety of IP-related organisations, including patent and trade mark law firms, solicitor firms, barristers' chambers, IP media outlets, and recruitment companies.
Statistics* show that businesses with a higher degree of diversity in their workforce perform better financially, have improved retention of staff, and have a happier, more responsive workforce. Many multinational companies, particularly those headquartered in the United States, require suppliers and contractors (including outside counsel) to comply with their internal diversity policies. For such companies, if a potential (or existing) supplier does not satisfy their diversity policies, the supplier has a reduced chance of acquiring (or retaining), work from the company. So, aside from the moral and ethical reasons for improving diversity, inclusivity and equality in the IP sector, there are significant business reasons to do so too.