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:
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.
I hear a lot about the business case for diversity. The fact is, we shouldn’t need one. What kind of person needs a business case to treat fellow human beings fairly?
Diversity is not just about changing the proportions of certain types within a community. It’s also about making everyone in that community – whether or not in a minority – feel welcome, comfortable and valued, allowing all to contribute to their full potential. It’s about recognising differences and then respecting, accommodating and embracing them. And it’s about being considerate.
Through leading the diversity-promoting initiative IP Inclusive, I know the IP professions to be full of decent, well-meaning, morally responsible people. So what goes wrong? Why do we still do things that discourage participants from minority groups, that erode our inclusivity and thus our diversity too? Why do we still accidentally serve a bacon sandwich to a Muslim or a steak to a Hindu; urge an alcoholic celebration on someone for whom it’s forbidden; try to fix up a single colleague with a member of the opposite sex; summon a parent to a late night meeting, a Jew to a Friday evening reception, or a wheelchair user to a last-minute central London conference?
In the latest extract from the Almost-Completely-Secret Diary of a CIPA President, Andrea Brewster writes a review of Delusions of Gender: The Real Science Behind Sex Differences by Cordelia Fine.
Psychologist and business coach Jon Atkins, of Pearn Kandola LLP, teamed up with IP Inclusive this month to provide a two-part webinar on unconscious bias. It was an eye-opening and thought-provoking experience. Part I dealt with the basics: what types of bias occur and why, and the value of tackling them so as to create a more inclusive working environment. Part II illustrated real-world biases through a couple of case studies, and provided concrete suggestions for avoiding bias in our day-to-day work.
These biases aren’t typically borne of malice or stupidity. The clue’s in the name. Unconscious bias arises because our brains make sense of the world using pattern recognition, and because the patterns we recognise are based on experience and precedent and the perceived wisdom of others in our community. So, unless you’re the only person ever whose brain doesn’t process information in this way, we strongly recommend you find out more about unconscious bias, and how it impacts on you and the people you interact with.
In the meantime, here’s a more light-hearted look at the subject, by way of an excerpt from the Almost-Completely-Secret Diary of a CIPA President. Enjoy!
19 April 2016