Closing the gender gap: number of female innovators doubles

Alex Downing discusses the increasing numbers of female inventors

Alex Downing
14th November 2019
The number of female innovators has doubled in the last twenty years, according to a report titled 'The Gender balance in worldwide patenting', published 2nd October by the Intellectual Property Office (IPO). The report tracks gender trends in individuals patenting their innovations.

Despite women innovators doubling in numbers, the report showed that women still only represented 12.7% of patent inventors in 2017, compared to 6.8% in 1998. The region of Tyne and Wear boasts the highest proportion of female inventors worldwide at 13.4%. The report acknowledges that, historically, women have been underrepresented amongst patent inventors- a person who contributed to the claims of a patentable invention, but also demonstrates that there has been a marked increase in the proportion of patent applications with at least one female inventor. Statistics show that more than one in five patent inventions have a named female inventor, and in areas such as biotechnology, pharmaceuticals and organic fine chemistry, around half of the patent applications between 1998-2017 named at least one female inventor.

the patents linked to female inventors rose from 15% in 1998 to 20% in 2017

In terms of specific areas of increase, the most notable was in academia. In universities, the patents linked to female inventors rose from 15% in 1998 to 20% in 2017, and during the same period women inventors in industry rose from 6% to 10%.

Secretary of State, Andrea Leadsom praised the  report's findings, and said "We know more needs to be done to inspire women to patent their ideas and turn them into real products and services. That's why we're investing in women's talent, including through the Women in Innovation Awards, the Industrial Strategy Youth Prize and the NESTA Longitude Explorer Prize."

The report concludes that its findings that there are fewer female inventors than male are unsurprising due to other studies on female engagement with STEM education and careers. It emphasises that the levels of female inventors are steadily increasing in both industry and academia amongst the majority of countries worldwide,  a positive conclusion in relation to closing the gender gap in innovation.

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