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.
The IP Inclusive Charter is purposefully broad. For example, the Charter provides each signatory the freedom to write an equality, diversity and inclusivity policy that is appropriate for the type and size of their organisation. This should enable many IP organisations, as well as in-house IP departments, to sign the Charter. In practice, this is why the current signatories of the Charter include large long-established IP firms and fledgling IP practices, the UK Intellectual Property Office, and multinational IP firms that have offices in the UK.
Our "Best Practice" work stream is now focussed on getting more IP organisations signed up to the Charter. The first 45 signatories have given us a fantastic start, and bring with them experience and ideas that the whole profession can benefit from. But we would like more signatories, because with the support of as many IP organisations as possible, we can enable those with diverse backgrounds and perspectives to contribute fully, to fulfil their potential and to strengthen the IP sector as a whole.
To this end, we are trying to identify the barriers that may prevent organisations from signing the Charter, so that we can break the barriers down. For example, the Best Practice work stream is planning to work with the IP Federation to determine how we can get members of that group on board. The work stream will also be looking at how we can facilitate the sharing of ideas and best practices between signatories. As someone recently commented: if you're not doing all you can to improve diversity and inclusivity, then you need IP Inclusive; if you are, then IP Inclusive needs you.
We would like to wholeheartedly thank our supporters and the current signatories of the IP Inclusive Charter, so many of whom have become ambassadors for IP Inclusive.
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* See, for example, the report from McKinsey & Co, and the business cases for diversity produced by The Law Society.