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.
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.
Last week, we held our first Women in IP event, which was attended by scores of women (and a few men!). The event featured an interactive panel discussion on “The power of networking and mentoring in developing your career”, followed by a chance to put newly-acquired tips on networking into practice. Some people attended the panel discussion only, some came to the networking session, while others enjoyed the whole event.
Cathy Mack, Practice Manager at TLIP Ltd, writes about the event and some of the interesting points raised during the panel discussion.
"Under the umbrella of the IP Inclusive initiative, the first Women in IP event was held on 2nd November 2016, hosted by IP Inclusive Charter signatory Norton Rose Fulbright. Feeling a bit daunted on arrival at the rapidly filling room confirmed that one of the topics of the event - networking - was going to be a very useful one.
After introductions, the event began with Andrea Brewster outlining the aims of IP Inclusive, and explaining how the Women in IP committee aims to facilitate the building of a network of women across the IP professions that will enable challenges to be recognised, shared and overcome. I haven’t attended many of these events, but it felt welcoming from the outset as Andrea explained in her introduction that it was open to all members of the IP profession including patent and trade mark attorneys, solicitors, barristers, trainees, administrators, UK IPO staff and searchers. In fact, as Andrea pointed out, just seeing the number of women together in one room gave a sense that “prevalence is confidence”.
As previously mentioned on this blog, the inaugural Women in IP launch event is taking place on Wednesday 2nd November 2016. We hope you will be able to join us at the event, which is kindly being hosted by IP Inclusive Charter signatory Norton Rose Fulbright.
The event comprises a lively panel discussion on “The Power of networking and mentoring in developing your career”, and will feature the following speakers:
Carol Arnold, IP Federation Immediate Past President (Chair);
Claire Baldock, Senior Partner at Boult Wade Tennant;
Penny Gilbert, Partner at Powell Gilbert;
Jean Hughes, Director Law Firms at CPA Global;
Parminder Lally, European Patent Attorney at Turnbull Lynch Intellectual Property;
Suzanne Oliver, Head of IP at ARM; and
Kate O’Rourke, Senior Counsel at Charles Russell Speechlys LLP and ITMA President.
After hearing from our eminent panellists about building support networks to develop your career, and hopefully some lively discussions with the audience, there will be time for some drinks and networking of our own.
This event is open to all working in the IP professions (including men!) and is free. You can join us for the discussion and networking (limited spaces), or just the networking event (over 100 spaces). We hope you can join us for a fun and inspirational afternoon. To register for the event, please visit the registration page on the Norton Rose Fulbright website.
We look forward to seeing many of you there!