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Xero’s Diversity Pledge to nurture more female inventors

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Mark Rees

Sep 11, 2022

When it comes to how we deliver our commitment to innovation, we believe that patents are a proxy for it. That’s why, on behalf of Xero, I’ve signed the Diversity Pledge. It’s an exciting step, and a move that symbolises a meaningful focus for us on ensuring the innovative contributions of more females are recognised in the patent applications we file each year.

Over centuries, inventors have helped to build and shape the world we live in, yet research findings show a clear disparity between patenting rates of women and their male counterparts. In order for us to develop even bigger and better products and technologies, we need to make sure that the ideas of our female and diverse employees are not only seen and heard, but officially captured in our patents.

The pledge in practice

By signing the Diversity Pledge, we’ve committed to identifying, nurturing and showcasing to a neutral third-party our efforts in bringing more female inventors to the fore. The three-year pledge timeline (of which we are currently in year two) offers us a robust framework in which to collate our baseline inventor data, pilot proposed ways we can improve on it, before finally submitting those metrics for external analysis.

We know that for us, everything will come back to the data. We can’t impact what we can’t measure, so we’re specifically looking at the proportion of unique inventors across our patent portfolio who are female, and the average number of female inventors named per patent application each year. Along the way, we’ve joined a working group of other technology pledgees, so we can share best-practice and look at what internal programs are most effective in ensuring we succeed. After all, a rising tide lifts all boats. 

Why is signing this pledge important?

While our primary goal is to increase our female inventor population, our hope is that by implementing these steps, the ripple effect will extend to other aspects of our diversity too. According to our Head of Patents, Katherine Rock, “We have a defined patent strategy that, among other things, seeks to recognise, capture and protect our fantastic innovations at Xero”.

“I think when it comes to female-identifying inventors, people have historically put the lower numbers down simply to a reflection of fewer women in engineering and other technical roles. But research tells us that this so-called “pipeline” issue cannot account for the entirety of the gender patenting gap. There are other factors at play, and part of the pledge involves understanding and addressing those root causes. 

At Xero, people like me, alongside external counsel, help our employees prepare the necessary documents for filing a patent application. By signing the Diversity Pledge, we’re making an intentional move to ensure we’re giving everyone the same opportunity to do so, regardless of any factors that might have worked against them in the past.”

As we see out the final year of our pledge commitment, we’re seeking to engage with our female-identifying inventor (and potential inventor) community to understand the barriers they face, and explore ways in which they can be overcome.

We have a number of other short and medium term plans in the works, including a mentoring pilot and an audit of (and changes to) our patent submission process, as well as our patent awareness communications. From simple linguistic changes on our internal wiki to new incentive programs, we want to experiment with what works at Xero to ensure our female and underrepresented inventors are recognised, and that we are leveraging the full contributions of all of our technical talent.

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