Today's blog article has kindly been provided by Caroline Day, Patent Attorney and Partner at Haseltine Lake LLP, and is on the topic of unconscious bias. Haseltine Lake is one of our Charter signatories.
Caroline writes: "Research tells us that bias can be reduced by contact: meeting people who confound your biases is a highly effective way to retrain your brain to think differently. But meeting people is hard. You have to identify who it is you want to meet in the first place, and get them to agree to meet you. You have to stop billing, leave the office whatever the weather turns out to be, and may well miss lunch.
There’s good news though. Simply visualising an experience can provide an emotional and motivation responses as strong as the real experience.
So I propose an experiment to challenge a common bias: that the person skilled in the art is male, and most likely white.
This is of course a hypothesis of mine, probably betraying my own bias, but surely reflecting the fact that every expert witness describing the experience of the skilled person I have ever met has been male and white, and that the skilled person may often be generically referred to as he, but only very exceptionally as she. Then we have the predominantly male and white annals of science: not the uninspired ‘skilled person’, but the innovators providing the teaching to be slavishly adhered to. If these chaps are overwhelmingly homogenous, then does this transfer a similar homogeneity on their imagined imitators? To the lazy human brain, I strongly suspect the answer is yes.
Today's blog article has kindly been provided by Roxna Kapadia, European Patent Attorney at Kilburn & Strode LLP, and is a report on today's joint CIPA, IP Inclusive, FICPI-UK and AIPLA Diversity in IP Breakfast Meeting. Kilburn & Strode is one of our Charter signatories.
Roxna writes: "Today CIPA alongside IP Inclusive, FICPI-UK and AIPLA hosted a panel discussion on "The Roles and Importance of Diversity Champions". Andrea Brewster, IP Inclusive Leader, chaired the panel. The panel included Harry Small, Partner at Baker McKenzie, Dr Bobby Mukherjee, Chief Counsel for Intellectual Property & Technology Law at BAE Systems plc., Raymond Farrell, senior partner and co-founder of Carter Deluca Farrell & Schmidt LLP and Maria Scungio, a partner at Wolf, Greenfield & Sacks PC.
The members of the panel spoke about the role they play within their own organisation for improving diversity. One member gave a passionate talk on their organisation not appearing neutral when it comes to LGBT rights but in being an active champion of LGBT rights by, for example, wearing LGBT symbols.
There was great discussion about unconscious bias in recruitment and promotion. Here it was discussed how we tend to recruit and promote in our own image and how to overcome this by being aware of our bias and including a more diverse group of people in the recruitment and promotion process. It was suggested that people could benefit from taking a simple free online quiz on unconscious bias (e.g. the Harvard unconscious bias tests), to make us all more aware of our own biases.
One member of the panel talked about promoting the STEM subjects in under privileged areas and spoke in earnest, about white male privilege, how he has benefited and how he tries to actively open doors to people who would not have the same opportunities.
The importance of diversity champions at the top of an organisation and the importance of supporting others was emphasised.
This was an inspirational talk and shows there is a lot of momentum both here in the UK and across the pond, to make IP a more diverse community!"
Thank you Roxna for writing this article. If you would like to write a blog article for IP Inclusive, on anything diversity related, please email Emily Teesdale of Abel & Imray. Guest bloggers are always very welcome!
The European Patent Office (EPO) recently launched a public consultation on its draft new Rules of Procedure of the Boards of Appeal. The proposed rules lack gender neutrality, not only by referring throughout to the Board "Chairman", but also by using the pronouns "he", "him" and "his" when referring to tribunal members.
At IP Inclusive, we are concerned that this type of language, especially when used in official and legal texts, reinforces gender stereotypes and fuels the unconscious biases that hinder creation of a diverse and inclusive community. We have therefore responded to the consultation and requested that the EPO remove gender-specific terminology before finalising the new rules.
You can download a copy of our submissions here:
If you have any questions or comments on this matter, please feel free to post your question/comment on this blog.
IP Inclusive Leader
Today's blog article has kindly been provided by Phillipa Holland, Principal Consultant at Fellows and Associates, and is about whether disclosing salary information during recruitment impacts diversity. Fellows and Associates is one of our Charter signatories.
Phillipa writes: "Would it help equality in the workplace if previous salary information was not discussed during the recruitment process?
The traditional and most common way of determining salary for an individual applying for a role in the UK is to have a budget, then find out what an applicant is earning, then ideally pay them a bit more (or at least the same) as what their income was previously. But is this fair? Is this sensible?
Well it can be a delicate subject for some. Discussing the details of your salary with a somewhat stranger on the understanding it will help secure your position and determine what you will earn in the future can be difficult. In some cases, being open about what you earn can aid negotiation (if, for example you earn more than the suggested budget it provides useful evidence of your market worth beyond the future employer’s current understanding of market conditions). But should this be so? Does it actually benefit the candidate, or the employer, in the long run?
There is a body of opinion that revealing candidate salary history has helped reinforce the gender pay gap. If the strategy is to set a budget and then within that budget pay candidates more than their current salary, then the strategy perpetuates the gender pay gap as men are, research indicates, typically paid more than women. (Thus, the same percentage increase on salary would mean that a woman would continue to be paid less for the same role). Statistically speaking, women tend to negotiate less and, when they do, it can be viewed negatively by employers. If organisations are not given access to salary information then the issues surrounding negotiation are significantly reduced, helping positively reinforce a woman’s earning power. There is a potential positive impact with respect to ethnic minorities as well; whilst the research in terms of pay disparity is more complicated (it’s a question of both availability of equitable opportunities as well as equal pay for equal roles), disregarding salary history may help prevent salary or hiring decisions being impacted by conscious or unconscious bias.
On 1st February, IP Inclusive ran a well-attended workshop on how to manage inappropriate behaviour in the workplace. The event, like all IP Inclusive events, was open to everyone working in the IP professions - the participants included recent entrants to the professions, attorneys, solicitors, partners in law firms, members of the UK IPO, and HR representatives.
A summary of the event has been published by Rose Hughes, Patent Assistant at Reddie & Grose LLP, on the IPKat website.
During the event, participants were asked to work in groups to identify examples of appropriate and inappropriate workplace behaviours. The photos below show some of the results of the task:
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.
On 8th November 2017, IP Inclusive held a seminar-cum-workshop on unconscious bias, kindly hosted by Mathys & Squire. Inspired by fabulous views from their Shard office, our group discussions yielded some great ideas about when and how unconscious bias can impact on an organisation and what steps can be taken to overcome it.
Thanks to some incredible follow-up work by one of the tutors, the IPO's Deputy Director of HR and Organisational Development Dominic Houlihan, we've turned those ideas into a "toolkit" for organisations to use in tackling unconscious bias. This is free for all members of the IP Inclusive community to download and use - and we hope it will prove useful in starting conversations, raising awareness and ultimately, in turning the IP profession into a more diverse and inclusive place.
IP Inclusive are running a seminar/workshop on unconscious bias on Wednesday 8th November, between 16:00 and 17:30. Mathys & Squire, one of our Charter signatories, are kindly hosting this for us at their offices in The Shard. The aim is to create a toolkit of practical measures for raising awareness of, and mitigating, the impact of inappropriate biases and assumptions. The seminar will be followed by networking and drinks.
This is a free interactive seminar exploring the effects of unconscious bias in the IP professions and ways to address it. You will learn what unconscious bias is; when and why it occurs; how it impacts on both organisations and the individuals within them; and how to take action against it.
Aimed at anyone involved in recruitment or HR, or with influence over their organisations’ equality, diversity and inclusion policies, the event will include workshop-style discussions to create a “toolkit” of practical measures that you can take back to your own organisation to raise awareness of unconscious bias and overcome its detrimental effects.
Places are limited so please book as soon as possible if you'd like to join us. To register, please visit the registration website here.
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.
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: