At first glance, the IP professions may not look very diverse. Although there are plenty of female trade mark attorneys, women are less well represented in the patent profession, especially in the more senior ranks. And both professions currently have less diversity than they should in terms of ethnicity, disability and educational background.

But dig deeper and you find professions that are open to change on this front, that are keen to attract and support a wider range of people. Both CIPA and CITMA were founders of the ‘IP Inclusive’ initiative, which aims to promote diversity and inclusion throughout the IP professions.

Its supporters include not just patent and trade mark attorneys, but also IP solicitors and barristers, IP Office examiners, patent searchers, IP paralegals, and many other professionals who work in the field. The other founding organisations were the IP Federation and FICPI-UK, actively supported by the UK Intellectual Property Office. Many more organisations and individuals have given generously to support the movement since its inception.

In general terms, IP Inclusive raises awareness of diversity-related issues and provides a banner under which people can work together for change. More specifically, that work covers four key areas:

Awareness-raising upstream of the professions

In order to improve diversity in any profession, you need to widen the pool from which it recruits. The ‘Careers in Ideas’ outreach project’s aim is to raise awareness of IP-related careers, and in turn to encourage recruits from a greater range of backgrounds, including from currently under-represented groups such as female science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) students, people with minority ethnic backgrounds and those from less privileged socioeconomic backgrounds.

Applicants will quite rightly assess a career opportunity holistically, as a blend of the personal and the professional. They will wonder if it will be personally rewarding, allowing them to contribute ideas, to be creative, to acquire new perspectives. They will want to know the impact it might have on their lives outside the office: work-life balance is becoming an important driver of career choices in a profession that can be demanding and stressful.

An organisation that wants to recruit the best talent must address these concerns. There is stiff competition for IP recruits, especially in certain technical fields. So employers need to consider: What are their organisations’ values and priorities, and their diversity and inclusion (D&I) policies and practices? Do they allow in a variety of people and ideas? What will newcomers learn, from reviews and personal testimonies, about the well-being of their staff and job satisfaction levels?

For lateral hires, competition is if anything fiercer and work-life balance is a stronger differentiator. These applicants know exactly what they are looking for through the glass door. Stories told by the existing workforce will soon get round and it is becoming increasingly important to treat staff well to retain them and to attract others. Lateral hires are also more commercially savvy, and will be on the look-out for signs of an unduly traditionalist approach that might limit an organisation’s shelf-life.

The IP professions recognise that improving D&I makes it easier for an organisation to recruit, develop and retain talented staff. But the commercial benefits of D&I also include downstream benefits in the workforce. Diverse and inclusive teams have been shown to be more robust and adaptable in the face of change, more innovative, more responsive. They bring access to wider networks of new clients and recruits.

They are also happier. And happier people are more efficient, more productive, more comfortable about developing their professional skills. They are less likely to look around for alternatives and they are better ambassadors for the organisation. Staff churn is costly; a happy, stable workforce is a good investment on many levels. Recruiting “more of the same” is simply not a healthy way to grow a team.

When new applicants see a diverse workforce, they see an employer that is open-minded and inclusive. Keep an eye out for that: it will speak volumes about the organisation’s staff, clients, suppliers and investors. And it will almost certainly help the business to attract and compete for the best people.

A best practice Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Charter

The IP Inclusive Charter is a voluntary code of practice for IP professionals to demonstrate their commitment to greater diversity and inclusion. Its signatories include both in-house departments and private practice firms – so when you’re looking at prospective employers, you might want to ask whether they’ve signed up.


We also aim to provide cost-effective and accessible training in diversity-related issues. IP Inclusive organises seminars, webinars and discussion events and shares information and blog posts on issues of relevance. Our events have covered topics such as unconscious bias, “workplace allies”, mental well-being in the IP professions, flexible working arrangements and accessibility.


IP Inclusive has six networking and support communities: “IP & ME” for IP professionals from a minority ethnic background; “IP Ability” for disabled (including neurodivergent) IP professionals and carers; “IPause” for IP professionals who are affected by (peri)menopause; “IP Futures” for early-career IP professionals; “IP Out” for LGBTQ+ IP professionals; and “Women in IP”. All six are open to allies as well. These communities help the professions to understand and nurture colleagues from under-represented groups. Each organises its own social, networking, training and awareness-raising events, and provides safe spaces for its members to share their experiences and seek support and guidance from their peers.

Above all, IP Inclusive is a catalyst for change. When you look at the IP professions now, you see much more diversity than you would have five years ago – and in another five years it should look even better. In the meantime, you should expect to find a welcoming and inclusive environment that is willing to accept you for who you are, so long as you are hard-working, committed and good at the job.

Already we see patent and trade mark practices encouraging a wider range of recruits, reaching out to schools and universities with careers talks and work experience opportunities. We see them hiring professionals from different countries and cultures so as better to reflect their international client bases; offering flexible and part-time working to accommodate people who want a better work-life balance, and reasonable adjustments to help everyone perform at their best; training staff to overcome unconscious bias; and exploring workplace support measures such as mentoring, “back to work” schemes and mental health “first aid”. Many organisations have EDI policies, dedicated EDI officers and/or diversity “champions”.

It is not necessary to be white, or male, or middle class, to join our profession. It is not necessary to have studied at Oxbridge or to have had private schooling. Your gender and sexuality should not be relevant to your career development. Your physical requirements should be accommodated and your mental well-being safeguarded. This is the kind of profession that new trainees should be joining. And I hope that they – you – will continue to fight for this important cause.

IP Inclusive has been going since 2015, and has wide support across the professions. There are over 150 signatories to our EDI Charter, from around the country. Our six communities are thriving, our Charter signatories flourishing and our events well attended. Please join us at one of those events soon!

About the Author

  • Name: Andrea Brewster

Andrea Brewster OBE (she/her), Lead Executive Officer of IP Inclusive, explains the relevance and importance of the initiative to the patent and trade mark profession, as well as setting out the key areas covered as part of this ongoing drive to promote diversity and inclusivity in IP.

Diversity Inclusivity IP
Back to Top

Get the latest jobs