In line with the long-term strategic direction of the International Trademark Association (INTA) to foster diversity and inclusion, and broader goals around corporate social responsibility, the Association today released a report and best practices toolkit to empower women in the intellectual property (IP) field to develop strong leadership skills and advance in their careers.
The report is the outgrowth of a major INTA project called The Women’s LeadershIP Initiative, which addresses the representation of women in IP and women’s career development and leadership gaps. INTA’s 2020 President Ayala Deutsch prioritized this issue during her term, and the Association launched The Women’s LeadershIP Initiative to coincide with International Women’s Day, March 8, 2020.
The report found that women are under-represented in the IP sector, particularly in leadership positions. While it cites research showing that diversity and the representation of women in IP is higher than in other law firm practice areas, it also highlights evidence that gender parity will not be attained for 99.5 years. “This is startling and of great concern,” the report notes.
The report focuses on three key areas of research: women’s representation in the workplace, women’s career advancement, and women’s work-life integration. It presents relevant data, key findings, and recommended best practices culled from five virtual workshops that INTA organized last year to promote discussion among female Association members in IP leadership positions from Asia-Pacific, Europe, Latin America, and North America. The report also addresses how INTA can support women’s leadership in IP.
Among the key findings, the report shows that the measures most often in place in organizations to advance gender diversity are robust anti-harassment policies and anti-discrimination policies. Least often in place are workforce gender quotas. Workshop participants recommended actions such as open dialogue and sound work-life integration policies, rather than workforce gender quotas, to address this imbalance.
On work-life integration, in-house practitioners report a better balance than those working in law firms, and respondents across regions noted that agreeing on flexible working arrangements with their organizations is paramount in helping to bring about satisfactory work-life integration.
Participants across all four regions agreed that visibility—“speaking up and standing up for achievements”—has been key in the advancement of their careers. However, many women found it necessary to leave an organization and start their own firm to attain a leadership position.
The report revealed regional variations as well. For example, while women in Latin America and North America more frequently cited the necessity to start their own firm, most respondents from Asia-Pacific and Europe pinpointed work quality and dedication to work as the primary factors in achieving a leadership position.
To support the advancement of women’s leadership in IP, participants most frequently suggested that INTA can create networking events promoting the exchange of views among women IP professionals with different roles and functions, and a sponsorship or mentorship program.
The best practices toolkit that is included in the report offers 19 recommended initiatives, such as implementing a Diversity and Inclusion Council, an internal reporting requirement, coaching circles, and formal flexible working arrangements, as well as engaging with several campaigns and groups addressing these issues. It encourages all organizations “committed to recognizing and advancing the role of women” to review and implement the recommended best practices.
“I have been fortunate to have a fulfilling and successful career in IP, but I remain mindful of the challenges that women still confront in the workplace,” wrote Ms. Deutsch, in the report’s foreword. “I am confident that The Women’s LeadershIP Initiative will be a powerful resource to help women navigate those challenges and move forward in their careers.”
The release of the report and best practices toolkit comes with a commitment by INTA to continue The Women’s LeadershIP Initiative as a sustained and permanent program “that actively champions women as leaders in IP.” The Initiative aligns with the priorities of INTA 2021 President Tiki Dare, who has established a Presidential Task Force on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, and the Association’s soon-to-be-released 2022–2025 Strategic Plan, which will continue to feature a strong diversity, equity, and inclusion component.
This year, on International Women’s Day, which is on March 8, The Women’s LeadershIP Initiative will hold virtual discussion forums, entitled Championing Women Leaders: The Road Forward, in various time zones.
Also building on the Initiative in 2021, the Association will organize additional education and networking events on women in IP and is exploring the establishment of a sponsorship and mentoring program as well as additional research regarding the representation of women and other elements of diversity beyond gender. In addition, INTA has introduced a specific program—Women in INTA (WIN)—to continue to foster women’s leadership within the Association itself.
Learn more at www.inta.org/womensleadershIP.