An interview with Dominic Houlihan at the UK IPO

An interview with Dominic Houlihan at the UK IPO

The Intellectual Property Office (IPO) is the official UK government body responsible for intellectual property (IP) rights including patents, designs, trade marks and copyright. They operate and maintain a clear and accessible intellectual property system in the UK, which encourages innovation and helps the economy and society to benefit from knowledge and ideas. They help people get the right type of protection for their creation or invention.
 
They’re also serious about diversity and inclusion. Read how.

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Five questions with Dominic Houlihan, Director of People, Places & Services, UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO)

1. What is the IPO doing to make impact on LGBT+ issues internally externally?
 
At the IPO, one of the most important aspects of our culture is everyone being confident being their whole self in work.
 
I have a husband, two cats and an extensive Dolly Parton CD collection and I’m proud to work for the IPO. Like all organisations there are areas we can improve, but we have an ambition to be the best at all we do. Yes, this means delivering excellent intellectual property services for customers and creating a world leading environment that supports innovation and creativity. Vitally for me, this also means building a brilliant place to work for our people.
 
Since joining in 2016, a big personal focus has been fostering an environment where people can do their best work when they are with us. I believe this happens best in an environment where we celebrate our diversity of thought and being. Inclusion, respect and fairness is at the heart of this.
Indeed, over the past 3 years some of our achievement have included becoming a Disability Confident leader; achieved commendation in the Chwarae Teg (a leading Welsh equality charity) Fair Play Employer Benchmark; achieved Silver accreditation on the Business in the Community Race Employer Benchmark; achieved Top 10 placements in the Working Families Index in 2017 and 2018; and most recently, achieved Gold in the Mind Workplace Wellbeing Index (2019). 
One of our crowning achievements has been our focus on LGBT+.
 
In 2016 I co-established our peer-led LGBT+ network iPride. Starting with a handful of passionate colleagues, over the past 3 years we’ve expanded our membership to include allies, have risen 358 places in the annual Stonewall Workplace Equality Index to our current high of 13th across the UK.
 
Through iPride, we’ve delivered awareness training to our people and contractors, as well as neighbouring Government Departments and Public-Sector bodies. We’ve held events, guest lectures and sessions on LGBT+ themes focusing on the importance of intersectionality. We’ve launched reverse mentoring for our senior leaders, provided coaching to colleagues, and worked with Stonewall to establish the UK’s first Trans-Awareness training. As IPO Board Sponsor for iPride, I’ve also talked openly about my own experiences (both at the IPO and in other organisations where I’ve worked).
 
Given our successes, in 2018 we established the South Wales LGBT+ Network Chairs forum, bringing together public, private and third sector organisations, to discuss how we can improve the experiences of our LGBT+ colleagues. Through this forum, we’ve discussed diverse matters ranging from security at local Pride events, NHS support, through to government consultations.
 
I’ve worked in organisations where it’s taken me a long while to feel comfortable talking about myself. However, right from the start IPO has proved to be an open and inclusive environment. I’m proud that we’re building on this culture. Both internally and externally, iPride is having a positive impact on LGBT+ issues across the workplace as well as our local community.
 
2. Can you name an LGBT+ person who has inspired you in your career?

Early on in my career I worked at the National Assembly for Wales (the Welsh Legislature). I had a senior leader called Craig Stephenson. He was open and proud of his sexuality and was passionate about improving the experiences of LGBT+ staff.
 
Craig established (and chaired) the Assembly’s LGBT+ Network which has gone onto achieve fantastic things and is consistently ranked in the Top 5 of the Stonewall Workplace Equality Index.
 
I remember attending the inaugural meeting and being impressed by Craig’s passion. Having been part of the network from it’s very start, I learnt a lot from Craig about the importance of senior visibility on diversity matters.
 
3. What wisdom would you have told your younger self, if you had the chance?

It’s a cliché but be proud of who you are.
 
4. How can an organisation encourage LGBT+ equality, inclusion and diversity?

Make it a board level priority. Whilst everyone has responsibility to ensure we have an inclusive environment, in my experience organisations are a long-shadow of their board. So, make it a board level priority.
 
5. What are your top tips for LGBT+ people coming into the workplace now?

Find organisations who have a clear ambition and commitment to inclusivity. Look at their web-presence, check their social media accounts, speak to their employees. Ensure their commitment is more than surface level.
 
As Verna Myers says, “Diversity is being invited to the party; inclusion is being invited to dance.” Find an organisation who’ll dance with you.

Read the next interview ►

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