We at IP Inclusive are always keen to hear about what members of the IP professions are doing to improve diversity, equality and inclusion within the professions.  In particular, we’re really interested to learn what our Charter signatories are doing to support and promote equality, diversity and inclusion in the IP professions.  So, we were pleased to discover that the UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO) held a diversity conference on 25th January at their headquarters in Newport, South Wales.  Ben Buchanan, IPO Diversity Champion, discusses the event and the IPO’s diversity initiatives.

Ben writes:

​Over the last few years, the IPO has reviewed our diversity credentials and designed and delivered a strategy to help us reap the benefits of becoming a truly inclusive working environment. We have sought to better understand the make-up of our workforce so that not only can we cater for everyone’s needs but we can also support the diversity of our customers and stakeholders.

We have done this by working with a number of partners including other government departments, private and third sector organisations, as well as training and developing our people to make the most of their potential.

Our latest initiative was the highly successful ‘Time for Inclusion’ conference run by the Diversity and Inclusion Group – this conference brought diversity to life by using personal stories told by IPO people, which helped us to personalise the message. In one delegate’s words…

“Diversity is often seen as a corporate topic which everyone agrees is important, but is often ill-defined. Asking around to establish what it exactly means in practice usually results in baffled looks of uncertainty. This conference provided a powerful and clear perspective of the importance and potential of Diversity and Inclusion through the honesty and bravery of those taking part.

Such strength in presenting their variety of personal stories left no ambiguity in the minds of those present as to what Diversity really means, and also what it promises. Coupled with effective discussion sessions where honesty and openness were encouraged, this was an event well worth attending.

Three very different people started by presenting their stories in turn – difficulties, frustrations, hopes and triumphs all laid bare. It was clear from their experiences that although some issues are plain for all to see, many are not.

From such a powerful start, it was not difficult to engage with a session to discuss how best to be inclusive in the workplace. Constructive ideas for pragmatism and being considerate were numerous.

The second session was very valuable for me, during which I learnt everything I know about difficulties suffered by transgender people, including the importance of using appropriate pronouns. Following this very frank but valuable presentation, another discussion centred on appreciating when ‘banter’ can cause real hurt, which forced me to reassess the effect on others of my approach to some topics.  

After lunch, a panel session provided an opportunity for four female leaders to address questions on the theme of ‘Why are there so few women in leadership roles’ by sharing their experiences and knowledge. Again, a valuable chance to reassess prejudices and appreciate the positives brought by a more representative mix in leadership roles.

Finally, one of the most powerful and open stories of the day addressed mental health. Once more, the strength shown by sharing from experience gave all the delegates a personal side to an issue which is often stigmatised and misunderstood.

In summary, this was an occasion whose great value arose from the candidness of those prepared to share. All those who attended learnt not to ignore the advantages of appreciating and making the most of differences”.

So what next for the IPO? By reflecting on who we are as an organisation, continually improving our work to increase diversity declarations and seeking to challenge and change behaviours we can continue to grow as an organisation and be better for our people and our customers. We will continue to work with IP Inclusive, Stonewall, Wales Anchor Companies and others to help people to feel able to bring their whole selves to work, including respecting privacy.

We will move towards a model where, alongside the continued provision of the Staff Counsellors, training interventions, the Harassment Contact Officer Network and up to date HR policies and practice, we encourage people to share their experiences and support each other. We are already doing this through self-sustaining internal and external networks such as iPride, the IPO LGBT+ network, and the Civil Service Stammerer’s network.

Our aim is for everybody to be able to be comfortable being themselves so that they can fulfil their full potential, making sure we include everyone’s contribution to doing what we do.

Thanks Ben for letting us know what the IPO is doing to improve diversity and inclusion.  More information on diversity, equality and inclusion at the IPO can be found here.

We would like to hear from other Charter signatories too.  If your organisation is, for example, involved in outreach to promote the IP professions, or holds internal training sessions on diversity, equality and inclusion topics, or is taking steps to improve inclusion within the workplace (e.g. offering flexible and part-time working options to parents/carers), we’d like to hear from you!  You can email us your stories.

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