Page published on 18th July 2023
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On 28 June 2023 we took part in a joint webinar with CITMA entitled “How to create an EDI strategy for lasting change”. It looked at embedding equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) in the workplace to ensure it has a lasting impact. Our speakers discussed their experiences within their organisations in supporting the development and implementation of EDI strategies. They also explored the importance of having a workplace EDI strategy, achieving buy-in at all levels, and identifying the metrics by which you can measure its success.
The speakers at this webinar were:
- Andrea Brewster OBE, IP Inclusive’s founder and Lead Executive Officer.
- Kate O’Rourke, Solicitor and Chartered Trade Mark Attorney, Mewburn Ellis.
- Nicola Smith, UK IPO – Nicola is responsible for shaping and leading the IPO’s Inclusion and Diversity strategy, with a focus on creating an environment where everyone can bring their whole selves to work, and where their people feel valued for their cognitive diversity, lived experiences and the fresh perspectives they bring.
It was chaired by Richard Goddard, ex-CITMA past-president and in-house trade mark counsel.
The case for change
All speakers agreed that senior buy-in is crucial for change to occur, which requires a strong case. For some this will be a business case; for others it will be a moral case. At the IPO, inclusion and diversity are woven into the top strategy layer – the business benefits of a diverse workforce are recognised. Everyone is fully committed and has a role to play. This makes it a great place to work.
Employees and potential recruits are also now asking for information about EDI strategies, sustainability, etc. These are now key factors in graduate recruitment, lateral hires and staff retention. Andrea pointed out that there is a lot of lost investment when staff move – and you can lose diversity in your workforce at a critical point.
Clients are also asking for EDI and sustainability data and taking this into account in their business decisions. The IPO even has a dedicated corporate report “Our Inclusive One IPO Culture”.
Moreover, IPReg introduced new regulatory arrangements on 1 July 2023 which include EDI-related objectives at their very core.
How to get started
The speakers also agreed that effective EDI strategies have strong and sustained top-level support. Having one or two strong EDI advocates at board level will be crucial to making a positive case for change.
Nicola’s advice was to use your data to try to understand the gaps in your organisation – who are you (not) attracting? Who is leaving? Where? Look at your data, then align your work to your data. For the IPO, internal data gathered on things like gender, race, ethnicity, disability status, etc, provides a direction and a business case. For example, they can cross-check pay/reward data and identify gender pay gaps. This has provided a business case, for example, for installing electronic doors at the IPO, as they had the data to show this would benefit a significant percentage of staff with disabilities. Data is also useful for benchmarking against other local employers (eg travel-to-work data), the civil service, and other IP offices.
However, the speakers acknowledged that gathering data can be potentially fraught with difficulty. This is especially true in small organisations where data can be traced back to individuals too easily. One solution here could be that a body such as IPReg collects data to provide numbers for the whole profession that individual firms can extrapolate from. In any data collection, it is crucial that answering questions must always be optional and respondents should also be encouraged to keep their data up-to-date. IP Inclusive are planning to produce guidelines on gathering EDI data next year.
Kate mentioned how important the IP Inclusive Senior Leaders’ Pledge and accompanying resources are for sharing information and learning from others. IP Inclusive has numerous resources and support communities which are valuable for all, but particularly for small firms. She also noted that clients’ requests for EDI/sustainability data can sometimes help you identify your weaknesses.
Andrea talked about making a bold effort to change. It requires more than statements and training. Show that you have more women, more people from diverse backgrounds, at all levels etc. Ensure everyone feels comfortable. Rethink how you judge potential recruits, and where you look for them. The need to live up to your claims, and to be accountable, was also emphasised.
At Mewburn Ellis, they brought in specialists to assist in implementing a strategy, provided training for all managers, and appointed a chief D&I person (a board-level position). They also formed a D&I collaboration group of people across the firm, who are brought in on decisions. Kate noted that cultural change doesn’t happen overnight – it needs to be constantly pushed by senior individuals and requires buy-in from all levels. This was a massive task involving significant time investment – they see this as core to their business.
The speakers mentioned various examples of ways that they have been driving change in their organisations:
- Include EDI as a critical part of your organisation’s values.
- Include EDI in performance objectives / reviews at all levels.
- Provide training where necessary.
- Hold people accountable for their behaviour / action / inaction.
- Notice behaviour in the office.
- Notice how managers speak to staff.
- Make it clear that everyone is welcome to do more to promote EDI, whatever their role.
- Internal social media platforms can allow people to talk about themselves or about issues or beliefs that are important to them. This can result in daily conversations on a wide range of topics, which can be incredibly moving, and engenders an environment where issues are out in the open and people can bring their whole selves to the office.
- Workplace adjustments passports – a document unique to an individual, which moves with them if they change role. It’s a formal/informal agreement between the individual and their line manager detailing what they need in order to perform at their best level – eg hours, software, time off for religious reasons or prayer times, etc. The advantages of this passport are showing that the organisation recognises and values individuals, removing barriers to sharing information with new managers and facilitating conversations, making it easier for both staff and managers.
Mentoring has a growing role to play in advancing EDI strategy. Mentoring can be thought of as knowledge flow, not training – it’s a two-way relationship where each party can learn from the skills and experience of the other. It provides a way for one to understand the lived experiences of individuals or groups of a different gender, race, ethnicity, social group, disability status, role, etc. Reverse mentoring is particularly important because it gives the more junior person permission to speak up about their experiences – how they feel and how they are impacted – and to ask for things to change.
Both the IPO and Mewburn Ellis are in the early stages of mentoring initiatives. At Mewburn Ellis, they are trialling mentoring between pairs of individuals in a whole variety of roles. At the IPO they recognised a lack of diversity in their board with respect to race and ethnicity and so they arranged reverse mentoring with the BME staff network. This group have shared their experiences of working in the IPO with the board, which has raised awareness on how changes impact the group. Nicola recounted that this has already proved beneficial and they are now looking at establishing BME mentoring as a route to supporting this group in accessing senior/board-level positions. They also plan to carry this through to the wider community through a mentoring scheme for young boys at local schools, aimed at addressing the under-representation they see, in STEM roles, of people from minority ethnic backgrounds.
Mentoring is also valuable in allowing a more senior person to share their experience and advice with a more junior colleague to build their confidence and help them progress, for example when senior women mentor more junior female colleagues.
The Careers in Ideas Mentoring Hub is targeted at people looking to enter the IP professions. It aims to diversify the upstream pipeline by giving people in under-represented groups guidance that they might not otherwise get and providing that little bit of extra help to create a more level playing field. If a mentee goes on to apply for jobs, it’s then important for employers to give them a fair hearing and, if they are recruited, to make them feel they fit in.
The speakers acknowledged that for smaller firms, access to mentoring may need to be via schemes set up between organisations, or offered by larger organisations. As an example, Nicola mentioned that the IPO is involved in a global mentoring program involving 26 IP offices.
CITMA are also looking at introducing a mentoring scheme and are keen for senior people in particular to get involved.
Summary of key suggestions
- Use your D&I advocates to make a positive case for change.
- Show others why having a more diverse and inclusive workplace is better for everyone.
- Be patient – you want to bring everyone along.
- Include EDI as a critical part of your organisation’s values and in performance objectives / reviews at all levels.
- Consider (reverse) mentoring – sit and listen and learn.