Celebrating Pride Season & IP Out
As part of IPIC’s Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) project, Building Back Through Innovation & Increasing Diversity in Canada’s IP Sector, and in celebration of Pride Season which runs from June-September, IPIC has reached out to the UK organization IP Inclusive to find out about their division IP Out. IP Out is the IP Inclusive Community for LGBT+ people and their allies working in the IP professions. They provide support and networking opportunities for LGBT+ people and their allies in the UK. We wanted to find out more about the group and why they think such a group could be beneficial to Canadian IP professionals. Jane Sarjeant, of Bereskin & Parr LLP, member of the IPIC Communications Committee invited IP Out Co-Chairs Tom Leonard, Partner, European and UK Patent Attorney, Kilburn & Strode LLP and Isobel Barry, Partner, European and UK Patent Attorney, Carpmaels & Ransford LLP to participate in this great Q&A. Here’s what they had to say:
1. What is IP Out?
IP Out is a networking and support group for LGBTQ+ people and their allies working in the IP professions in the UK. IP Out is part of a wider initiative called IP Inclusive, which is a profession-wide organisation dedicated to promoting diversity and inclusion across the IP sectors as a whole. IP Out held its first meeting in November 2016, and we aim to host around 4 events a year, with a mix of educational and social focuses. Our events enable those in the LGBTQ+ community to meet others in their professional field, as well as promote LGBTQ+ issues to the IP profession more widely. We also share stories, insights and LGBTQ+ history on our blog.
2. Why is equality, diversity, and inclusion important to the IP profession?
Tom: Like any other profession, people are happiest and the most fulfilled when they are able to bring their whole selves to work, without censorship and without shame. Beyond the “business case for diversity and inclusion”, we believe it is simply the right thing to do.
Isobel: ED&I is important everywhere! Also, although IP Out is by no means limited to private practice law firms, these can have a tendency to be conservative in some aspects of their culture and may be far behind corporations on ED&I. Through IP Inclusive we have seen a huge drive to catch up.
3. What are some positive outcomes of prioritizing equality, diversity and inclusion in the legal profession?
Tom: From the legal profession side, it helps to attract the best people. All organisations work better when they are more diverse, and having communities like IP Out and initiatives like IP Inclusive signal to people thinking about joining the profession that we care about these things, we will care about them. From the individuals’ perspective, it gives them permission to be themselves. And if there are active groups, like IP Out and IP Inclusive, within a profession, it gives members of the profession permission and opportunity to support and promote causes they believe in, outside of the day-to-day of their job. In the end, a profession is the individuals within it, and the work done by individuals who are active in promoting equality, diversity and inclusion enable the profession as a whole to better itself.
Isobel: Ignoring ED&I means settling for a dominant culture, echo chambers and inferior decision making. It also means missing out on the contributions of huge numbers of talented people. Tom is right that without a signal that an organisation cares about ED&I, diverse candidates may choose not to apply. Without a fair recruitment process that eliminates unconscious bias, they may not be hired. And without the freedom to be themselves, they may not thrive and they certainly won’t stay. The energy that people put into conforming to a dominant culture at the expense of expressing themselves can interfere with doing their job to the best of their ability.
4. Which of IP Out’s accomplishments are you most proud of?
Tom: I am a co-founder of IP Out, which was the first IP Inclusive community to be established, along with Women in IP, and I am really proud of that. Since then, the IP Inclusive community has grown to include IP & ME (focussing on ethnic minority IP professionals) , IP Ability (for disabled people and their carers), IP Futures (for early stage IP professionals), and IP Non-traditional Family Network, and it continues to go from strength to strength, with hundreds of organisations having signed the IP Inclusive EDI Charter. Together we have really transformed the way the profession looks at equality, diversity and inclusion. It is simply unrecognisable to how it was when I joined the profession in 2006. We owe a lot to Andrea Brewster OBE, who is the founder and Lead Executive Office of IP Inclusive and the absolute driving force behind it.
Isobel: Tom sums up well the massive changes driven by IP Inclusive. Thinking about IP Out in particular, I’m proud of the breadth of events our fantastic committee has organized over the years, as we have tried to be as inclusive as possible. We have had educational events on the experiences of and issues affecting trans people, non-binary people, bisexual people, asexual and aromantic people, neurodiverse LGBTQ+ people and LGBTQ+ people of faith. I’ve also been keen to ensure we collaborate with the other networks in IP Inclusive that Tom mentions above, so we can learn from each other and reach those at the intersections.
5. How has your background brought you to this position, and what made you want to volunteer for IP Out?
Isobel: I didn’t come out properly until my late 20s and, although I found only support at work, it took me a while to understand my personal and professional identities. Cross-firm LGBTQ+ networks like InterLaw Diversity Forum really helped me with this, so I wanted the opportunity to create something similar for my corner of law.
Tom: I identify a gay man, so I am part of the LGBTQ+ community and issues that affect that community, affect me. I have also seen the profession grow from a much more traditional place into a profession that genuinely believes equality, diversity and inclusion matter. When I started in IP, there were no LGBTQ+ groups for any of the patent or trade mark firms. Whereas large law firm all had LGBTQ+ networks, we didn’t have that in the patent or trade mark firms, because the firms were too small. Founding IP Out gave those smaller firms the opportunity to come together as a profession to reach the critical mass needed to support an LGBTQ+ network for the first time.
6. What are some ways our members can promote equality, diversity and inclusion in their workplaces?
Isobel: This depends on the size of your organisation and your role in it, but there are lots of things individuals can do. Educate yourself on allyship and play to your own strengths. If you are senior and from a marginalised group then being open about your identity and your experiences can be really powerful. You can also advocate on behalf of those from groups you are not a part of, and amplify their voices where you can. If you are more junior you can suggest to your management or HR department initiatives you would like to see, whether that is on interview panel composition, training on microaggressions or reverse mentoring. You can also signal to others that you are an ally by simple gestures like a rainbow lanyard or pronouns in your email footer. Above all, educate yourself, and listen to others when they explain their experiences to you.
Tom: Isobel is absolutely right. I would also reinforce that it’s important everyone in the profession has the opportunity to get involved, not just those members of marginalised groups. The onus should not always be on them to promote their cause. If you are an employer, talk to you employees about diversity and inclusion. Ask what could be done better, and then do it. Look to organisations like Stonewall in the UK that help employers address issues in inequality, and engage with them. For individuals, find out what initiatives already exist, and get involved. And not just those relating to issues that affect you, but those that need your support. Take the initiate to learn about people in communities that are different to yours and make sure you are behaving in a way that consciously includes them.
7. What are some of your favorite resources you can share on equality, diversity & inclusion?
Tom: It’s a bit of a plug, but there are some great resources on the IP Inclusive website ipinclusive.org.uk! Stonewall fights for all members of the LGBTQ+ community and they continue to be an invaluable resource for employers.
Isobel: There’s so much information out there on the internet that you can’t help but find something of interest to you. My firm has joined Stonewall’s Diversity Champions programme, which is really useful. Organisations like Stonewall have given a lot of thought to ED&I so it makes sense to learn from them rather than reinventing the wheel. Personally, I attend as many events relating to different marginalised groups as I can, and seek to educate myself on others’ life experiences through reading both fiction and non-fiction.
8. What is the future of diversity and inclusion in the IP workplace?
Tom: People speak of a time when diversity and inclusion will become total second nature, and not something that needs to be talked about. I hope we never reach a point where we don’t talk about this. Because we can always learn from each other, we can always be better, and we can and should always celebrate our differences. It is what makes us, us. And unfortunately we have seen that progress doesn’t mean progress forever. Things can move backwards in a really scary ways. We have to keep talking about these issues to prevent that from happening.
Isobel: We have come such a long way, but there are still groups that need our support and lifting up. I hope that the future will see much better representation of marginalised groups at senior levels, as we work to fix those leaky pipes that lead to loss of diversity as people move through their careers.
9. How can our members find out more about IP Out?
They can visit our website at ipinclusive.org.uk/community/ip-out/ where they can also find out more about IP Inclusive and the other community groups within it, as well as sign up to our mailing list. Many of our events are online so even if you are in Canada we hope you have the opportunity to join us at an event soon!
IPIC thanks Jane Sarjeant, Bereskin & Parr LLP, member of the IPIC Communications Committee for inviting IP Out Co-Chairs Tom Leonard, Partner, European and UK Patent Attorney, Kilburn & Strode LLP and Isobel Barry, Partner, European and UK Patent Attorney, Carpmaels & Ransford LLP to participate in this great Q&A.
Thank you for your interest in IPIC and our EDI initiatives. For more information, please contact:
Loreto Lamb, Director of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion
Intellectual Property Institute of Canada
360 Albert Street, Suite 550 Ottawa, ON K1R 7X7
T: 613-234-0516 x 28, E: email@example.com
IPIC acknowledges the financial support of Women and Gender Equality Canada