Towards the end of January 2020 the UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO) published its second annual Inclusion and Diversity report. Covering the period from April 2018 to March 2019, the document is a very public demonstration of the IPO’s commitment to diversity and inclusion, both among its own teams and throughout the UK’s IP system. We applaud the messages it conveys: that accessibility and inclusivity are vital for a healthy and high-quality national IP system; that we can all work together to achieve them; and that the IPO is willing to take the lead.
From the very outset, the IPO has given IP Inclusive its full support. From a keynote speech at our first round-table in 2015 from the then IP Minister Baroness Neville-Rolfe, to John Alty’s public endorsement and signature of our EDI Charter later that year, to numerous collaborations and the provision of expertise, volunteers and project sponsorship, the IPO has continued to offer both moral and practical support and to champion the IP Inclusive cause both within its own teams and beyond.
This is important. There would be no point in improving diversity and inclusivity among the IP professions if that were not mirrored throughout the UK’s IP system. D&I is not about individual players; it is about the whole framework in which they operate, which must be inclusive for everyone, both architects and users. So the IPO’s continued and determined efforts to bring greater inclusivity to the IP system underpin IP Inclusive’s achievements. They give us meaning. They give us purpose. They enable us to make sustainable and properly focused improvements.
Aiming for the best
The IPO’s Chief Executive Tim Moss CBE begins his foreword to the document by reminding of his office’s key objectives. “Our role,” he says, “Is to make life better through IP.” In fulfilling that role, he adds, “the IPO’s ambition is to be the best IP office.” Which means making it “a brilliant place to work”. He continues:
“We want a culture and environment which is inclusive, supporting people to be their best and leading to engaged and well-motivated people… This must be underpinned by shared values and behaviours, resulting in a respect for difference and common purpose.”
Plenty to be proud of
And the IPO has plenty to be proud of in that respect. It was placed 13th in Stonewall’s Top 100 Employers list for 2019 (having leapt 358 places on that list in the last three years) and was accredited Gold in Mind’s Workplace Wellbeing Index 2018/19. It has also been ranked as a Top 30 Working Families’ Employer, boasting a 99% retention rate for part-time workers which is well in excess of the benchmark average of 71.4%.
Part of the IPO’s vision is described as “an inclusive, open environment, one where diversity is respected and our differences valued” and where people can be confident to be themselves at work. To help it realise that vision, it has established shared values and behaviours among its employees, and a “Respect at Work” task force. It cites being “respectful, accountable, confident, reasonable, and pragmatic” as key to that: excellent foundations for an inclusive culture.
The vision extends beyond the IPO itself, however, to its interactions with users of the UK’s IP system. Its Customer Insight Team has been conducting research and development into making sure the IPO’s services are accessible to everyone.
Internal support networks
In a document that’s all about people, it’s appropriate that a large part of the report comes from the IPO’s internal support networks. Key players from the BAME, Caring for Carers, Faith and Belief, iCAN, iPride, iThink and WIN (Women’s Inclusive) networks – as well as the Peer-to-Peer mental health support group – outline their past achievements and their future plans.
Striving for gender diversity in STEM
The report also talks about projects to improve not only the IPO’s gender pay gap figures (in 2018 it reported a mean pay gap of 22% in favour of men’s salaries), but also the representation of women within its own and other STEM-based roles in the Civil Service. Currently only 21% of its higher-paid patent examining roles – which require a STEM background – are occupied by women. It is now actively seeking to recruit more women into these specialist roles, with the support of its STEM ambassadors and its Women’s Network.
Working with IP Inclusive
We were thrilled to see several references in the report to the IPO’s collaborations with IP Inclusive. These included our September 2019 webinar “Colleagues on the autism spectrum”, an October 2019 event with IP Out and Jonny Benjamin MBE, and a South West network event to mark Mental Health Awareness Week in May 2019.
Ben Buchanan, Chair of the IPO’s Diversity and Inclusion Steering Group, is also an IP Inclusive Champion and adviser to IP Inclusive Management. He says in the report:
“The IPO works with IP Inclusive, the organisation increasing inclusion across the IP profession with whom we share many challenges like the STEM pipeline and social mobility. We have a seat at the table of the Management Committee, we have hosted and attended joint events on diversity and mental health and our staff networks are in touch with IP Inclusive communities.”
We have certainly valued Ben’s enthusiastic and constructive input to IP Inclusive projects over the last few years.
The report concedes that there is still work to be done, and contains plans for further initiatives that the IPO and its support networks hope to progress in 2020. They start from a strong position. As Ben says, “Over the last year we have seen inclusion become a part of everyday language. So it should be.” And he reminds that inclusion “isn’t just about tackling inequality or reducing discrimination. [It] is about giving everybody a chance to speak up and be listened to; it’s about being aware of difference and making the most of it” and “building a culture where everybody can fulfil their full potential and they have the support, the opportunity – and the choice – to do it to the best of their ability.”
The full report
You can read the IPO’s full report here. It includes data from the Office’s March 2019 D&I survey, recruitment statistics for 2018/19, and staff engagement levels for different diversity strands.
A nice problem to have
The last word should probably go to diversity champion Ben Buchanan. He is quoted in the report as saying:
“The problem with working at the IPO is that it’s already a great place to work: Every year it gets harder to get better!”
We know Ben and his colleagues. They are not complacent. This may be a nice problem to have, but we are confident the IPO will see it as an ongoing incentive to improve. We look forward to helping them.