592. The United Kingdom would like to thank the United States for their paper on Women and Intellectual Property. We are pleased to co-sponsor the paper as the UK acknowledges the importance of fostering opportunities for gender equality; empowering women and girls as innovators and creators; incorporating a gender perspective into IP policies and promoting an inclusive IP system accessible to all including other underrepresented groups. We are also pleased to note WIPO's work and ongoing commitment to promoting gender equality and diversity. As well as increasing women's participation in the IP system we also recognize the valuable contribution, undertaken by women, particularly those working in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) industries, and the significance of this work to policymakers due to the current underrepresentation of women within science and technology.
593. The representation of women within the STEM fields is of great importance to the UK Government. Bridging gender gaps in IP and increasing the participation of women and girls can only enhance and increase innovation to tackle some of the major issues that humanity and the world face. We have seen this demonstrated in recent times, as the pandemic has brought to the forefront many female inventors in particular, Professor Sarah Gilbert, who led the Oxford/AstraZeneca team of researchers in developing their vaccine. In the UK, the Government Office for Science, supported by organisations such as Innovate UK and the Royal Academy of Engineering have for years worked hard to inspire girls and women to study and build careers in the STEM fields.
594. Statistical surveys from these bodies highlight the impact of their work within the education sector with the number of females attaining STEM higher level qualifications increasing. For the first time ever, there are more than one million women working in core STEM roles across the UK. The UK Government has published a roadmap to improve gender equality that projects that reducing gender gaps in overall labour market participation, wages, and STEM qualifications could increase the size of the economy by as much as GBP 55 billion by 2030. Among their plans for change, they have invested in programmes to increase the participation of women in STEM subjects.
595. The Intellectual property office of the UK (IPO) also has an important role to play and is committed to increasing women's participation in IP and improving gender equality within STEM, the IP profession, and the IPO itself. The IPO continues to find innovative ways to invest in the STEM pipeline and increase the number of girls taking STEM subjects in primary and secondary schools. As well as working in universities to increase awareness of the IPO as a diverse STEM employer. The IPO is working with "Code First Girls" to increase participation in the tech industry by providing cost free training to women and non-binary people, to improve the skills and space for them to become established developers and future leaders.
596. The IPO has introduced a STEM Returner's scheme offering work placements at the IPO along with mentoring and training to help women return to STEM after time away. The IPO works closely with the UK IP attorney profession as part of the "IP inclusive" network, including its Women in IP community, to raise the awareness and effectiveness of diversity and inclusion. The IPO's focus on recruitment in our Patents areas has seen almost equal numbers of men and women securing permanency. Over the last two years the IPO has received significant recognition for its inclusive culture including amongst others: top 10 placement in the UK-wide Top Employers for Working Families Index for two consecutive years; and silver standard in the gender equality charity Chwarae Teg's Fair Play Employer benchmark which identifies barriers in recruiting, retaining and progressing women in the workforce.
597. The UK is keen to continue to work with others to promote and facilitate an inclusive IP system accessible to all. The UK would like to respond to the paper's question asking, "What measures, if any, have proven useful for the support of women entrepreneurs in participating in the IP system?".
598. The UK scores highly in international indexes of female entrepreneurship which assess environment, ecosystem, and aspirations. An innovation-friendly business environment, universal education, small-and medium-enterprise (SME) training programmes and a high level of acceptance of women in business help contribute to high UK ratings.
599. These positive results reflect a range of efforts over the past 15 years by the UK Government to foster female entrepreneurship, starting with its Strategic Framework for Women's Enterprise in 2003. More recently, in 2013 the Government launched its Women and the Economy action plan, which pledged to improve advice and support for women entrepreneurs, including those with caring responsibilities. In 2014 the government's Business is Great website was expanded to include advice for women looking to start, grow or accelerate their businesses. Further initiatives followed the 2015 Burt report by the Ambassador for Women in Enterprise, including mentoring events aimed at women and extension of tax-free help with childcare costs to the self-employed.
600. In conclusion, the UK hopes this discussion can improve and shape policy development and identify practical steps to advance the participation of women in all aspects of intellectual property, and by extension unlocking "access to" the commercial and economic successes of their innovations, designs, and creations, and we look forward to hearing about other Members' experiences.