Diversity & Inclusion

Diversity & Inclusion Staff Group

International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

Today is the United Nations’ International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. This year the theme is ‘voices for action against racism’. I have often said that membership associations are built on people; the volunteers and professionals who come together to give each association its own unique identity. Those people have voices and it is essential that membership associations allow those voices to be heard when it comes to any form of intolerance or bigotry.

As this is a CIPA piece, I will focus on racism at work and within the structure of CIPA as a membership association. Let me be clear, there is no place for racism in a membership association. There is no place for racism in associations as workplaces or as communities of practice for their members. It shouldn’t need to be said, but it does, and I want to reflect on why this is the case.

The UN aims to engage the public in developing a global culture of tolerance, equality and anti-discrimination. To achieve this, the UN believes that each and every one of us must stand up against racial prejudice and intolerant attitudes. As an employee of CIPA, as CIPA’s Chief Executive, standing up against racial prejudice and intolerance is relatively easy. I enjoy the status and the privilege whereby I set the tone of the organisation and I simply will not allow a staff culture where racism could thrive.

How do we achieve that? Well, it is not through organisational policies and chanting ‘thou shalt not be racist’. I do not think I have ever said that racism is not acceptable in a CIPA staff meeting. We have an open and honest culture. We discuss our attitudes to prejudice and intolerance. We share our personal experiences of prejudice and tolerance. We support each other. It is a simple fact that an employee with racist views could not survive in our world. We would, of course, deal with any potentially racist incident with due regard to employment law and practice, but our environment is not one where any person with racist views would feel welcome.

As a membership association, I am not as sure that we always get it right. I know, from the conversations I have had with members, that many experience prejudice and intolerance, including racism, in their professional lives. I find that abhorrent and inexcusable. In the same way that I believe that there is no place for racism in CIPA as a workplace, there is no place for racism in CIPA as a membership association, dependent as it is on volunteers to give freely of their time, enthusiasm and expertise and to be able to do so without feeling threatened, anxious or uncomfortable.

CIPA has launched its Diversity and Inclusion Committee. In my opinion, we were slow in doing so. In our defence, we have put our energy and resources into IP Inclusive to help make the IP community more inclusive, diverse, open and fair. We have learned much about tolerance and about respecting individuals for who they are through our work with IP Inclusive and now is the time to bring that learning into CIPA as a membership association.

I am sure there will be many challenges for CIPA’s D&I Committee but I would like it to achieve one important thing. I want CIPA’s members to talk as openly and honestly about prejudice and intolerance as we do as staff. I want our members to share their experiences, and to learn from and support each other. I want to see a culture in CIPA as a membership association where any member with racist views could not survive.

Lee Davies

Date published: 21 March 2022

Alternative Diversity & Inclusion

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