Today's blog article has kindly been provided by Julie Barrett-Major, consulting attorney at A. A. Thornton & Co., which is one of our Charter signatories.
Julie writes: "Since being asked if I would contribute to this blog, I have been wondering what to write about. Some topics were suggested to me and also perhaps my first blog should introduce myself. But, in the last few of weeks, a number of items hit the press that provoked thoughts; it seems ‘plus ça change’. I have been in the IP profession for a long time, and I was a bit out of the normal mould when I started (some would say I still am!). I was female for a start, not from Oxbridge, not from the usual ‘class’, and I’d managed to mix my Chemistry degree with a non-science subject. Congratulations to the Wellcome Foundation Ltd and Laurence Jenkins, CPA, for giving me an opportunity to have – what I still regard as – an interesting and absorbing career. Along the way, I have been a member of the Council of CIPA and various of its committees, worked in various organisations – both private practice and in-house – and also set up my own business while my children were young.
I have many stories to tell about ‘non-inclusive things’ (which I shall from now on call NITs) that either happened to me or that I came across – some of which I’ll write about in future blog posts. But the recent press reports made me think of one NIT – which is actually a pair of NITs – in particular: a young woman, who was young, single, newly-qualified and worked in private practice, telephoned me in my office and asked what she should do about the facts that: (NIT1) her firm had magazines in their reception area that she felt demeaned women; and (NIT2) she had effectively been told she would never make partner because she was likely to have children ‘fairly soon’.
I must admit my initial reaction may not have been the most helpful. Brought up as an engineer’s daughter and used to venturing into man-filled workshops that all had calendars on the walls depicting scantily-clad women, I was inclined to suggest she get the male equivalent of a ‘Calendar Girls’ item and hang it prominently in the reception area – and see what happened. We also discussed whether her firm’s partners were clairvoyant and, if so, could they save me buying a little blue testing kit, too. That was about 35 years ago. Surely a lot has changed since then?"
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.
In the debate about gender equality, terms like “positive discrimination” and “quotas” get a bad press. Both men and women tend to feel uncomfortable with the concepts. But it’s time we got real about this. We do not yet have equality in the workplace. After years of anti-discrimination laws and equal pay legislation, there is still a significant gender pay gap. Women are still not well represented in the board room. There are still assumptions about female roles, and corresponding biases, that affect people of all genders.
Something needs to be done. And that something requires us to be bold. Fussing about positive discrimination being unethical is for the person who wants to preserve the status quo or the one who’s reluctant to cause trouble. And unfortunately that does appear to be our choice: to stir up trouble, or to make scant progress.
The key questions are: is the status quo really good enough? Will the current pace of change – often painfully slow – suffice? Is it OK for our own children to suffer discrimination, and their children too? For me, no. I think we all deserve better.
Facebook recently announced that they will require women and ethnic minorities to account for at least 33% of the law firm teams they engage. I salute them for that. If you cannot see for yourself that, say, 10% women is inappropriate, then someone must step in and say it for you.
So what are the arguments that make us wary of positive discrimination?
Join us at AIPLA's Global Networking Event!
On Thursday 4th May 2017, the Women in IP network of IP Inclusive will be participating in the AIPLA Women In IP Law Committee’s Global Networking Event in Glasgow, Manchester and London. Join us, along with other cities across Europe, to catch-up with fellow IP professionals and to hear from speakers on fascinating topics around women in innovation.
The events will be held in the late afternoon and evening on Thursday 4th May, and are kindly being hosted by some of the IP Inclusive Charter signatories. Please register early as places are limited.
Glasgow: Join us for wine, nibbles and networking as we discuss plans for and progress towards the Unified Patents Court (UPC). This event is being hosted by Murgitroyd. To register, or for more information, please email Lauris Kemp. Please note, this event is for women only.
Manchester: Gather in Manchester, birthplace of the Industrial Revolution and now GrapheneCity, at Mewburn Ellis LLP’s office to celebrate innovation and inclusion. Over cheeses, wine and mocktails we’ll discuss the role women play in innovation, both by celebrating notable figures from our history and by looking to the future and our role in it. To register, or for more information, please email Sarah Brearley. Please note, this event is for women only.
London: Gill Jennings & Every LLP invite you to meet at the Urban Innovation Centre, Clerkenwell for cocktails and canapés and to hear from speakers who work to encourage young women into the scientific professions and to support investment in innovative start-ups with a diverse leadership. If you would like more information, or would like to know how to register, please email Lucy Samuels. Please note, this event is open to women and men.
We look forward to seeing you there,
The Women In IP Committee
Isobel Barry, a senior associate at Carpmaels & Ransford, is our latest guest blogger and discusses the Women of the World festival she recently attended in London. Carpmaels & Ransford is one of the signatories of the IP Inclusive Charter for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, and Isobel is a key member of the Women in IP group and IP Out.
Isobel writes: "March featured a large number of women-focussed events to coincide with International Women's Day, and one of the biggest in London was the Women of the World (WOW) festival. Over three days the Southbank Centre was buzzing with thousands of people, mostly women, attending talks, workshops, panel discussions, and performances of music and spoken word. Speakers ranged from MPs to asylum seekers, from academics to actors, from activists to CEOs and MDs... even a handful of men.
A caveat to this report is necessary at this point: it can only reflect the panels I attended, and with as many as 10 different sessions in a given time slot, there were a very large number of different experiences of the festival to be had.
With the work of IP Inclusive at the front of my mind on the first day I attended a session entitled The Business Case for Diversity, which featured panellists from large organizations including UBS, AIG and Bloomberg. The business case itself didn't need much explanation (see the post on this blog here), but when it came to the ways of achieving diversity, there were as many different takes as there were speakers. Some of these might be transferable to smaller businesses, some might be less so. One speaker believed that the key to diversity and inclusion is in holding line managers accountable, since they are instrumental at key points in people's careers. Another focussed on the need to make a pledge to drive change around it: "without putting a line in the sand, you won't get where you need to be". A statement that rang true was the need to look for role models that fit the business' own view of itself. There was also a suggestion that the tendency to downplay the moral and ethical case for diversity and inclusion can be a misjudgement, since people need to care to be motivated to work for change."
We are excited to announce our next nationwide Women in IP event, which will be taking place on Thursday 23rd March 2017, from 08:30.
The breakfast event is being hosted by a number of IP firms at venues in London, Bristol, Glasgow, Manchester, Bath and Cambridge. Join us for a coffee and a chance to meet other IP professionals before watching our webinar on gender inclusivity. The event is open to all, not just women. If you work in IP or the IP-related professions (e.g. attorneys, paralegals, legal secretaries, technology transfer specialists, in-house IP teams, trainee IP attorneys, solicitors, barristers, technical translators, IP journalists, etc.), please join us!
The "How to be a Workplace Ally" webinar will be led by:
If you've signed-up to the Women in IP mailing list, you should have an invitation to the event in your inbox. In any case, if you would like to attend the event, please let us know by completing this form.
The programme for the event is as follows:
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:
Following the successful launch of IP Inclusive's Women in IP group last November, the group has been busy organising future networking events, seminars and discussions. Many attendees of the November launch event were keen on there being more regular networking events for women working in the IP professions. So, the Women in IP group have launched informal 'meet up' events, the first of which took place on Monday in Manchester. The 'meet up' events are open to all women working in IP. Paralegals, patent and trade mark administrators, technical translators, technology transfer staff, legal secretaries, members of the IPO, etc. are all very welcome and encouraged to attend. These events are not just for IP attorneys and solicitors, and you do not have to be members of CIPA, ITMA or any other legal institute/body in order to attend.
Sarah Brearley, Associate Patent Attorney at Mewburn Ellis LLP and one of the leaders of the Women in IP group, organised the first event in Manchester.
"As part of our program of events for 2017, the IP Inclusive Women in IP group are organising a series of informal “meet up” events around the country. The idea is simple: at a given time, in a given place, there will be at least one recognisable “Woman in IP” and you are invited to pop along, say hi and to get to know us and each other a little.
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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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”.