Gender and inventorship: new data reveals ongoing disparity

According to the latest study produced by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) an increasing number of women inventors were named in international patent filings over the past two decades, but the gender gap amongst inventors persists.

Compared with 17 per cent in 1995, 29 per cent of the international patent applications filed via WIPO in 2015 included at least one woman inventor.

Speaking at the IP Statistics for Decision Makers 2016 conference in Australia, WIPO Director General Francis Gurry described the 20-year trend as encouraging.

‘This new global data give us a baseline for understanding the role of gender in the filing of international patent applications, which is one metric used in measuring a country’s innovative capacity,’ said Mr. Gurry.

‘This data proves that a gender gap exists and it needs to be addressed.’

He called on policy makers around the globe to prioritise fostering innovation among all members of their societies, such as via the promotion of science, technology, engineering and mathematics for female students.

The study, released on 15 November 2016, is the first of its kind to provide a global view on woman inventorship.

The new statistics were gathered from international patent applications filed via WIPO’s Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT), which has 151 contracting states across the globe.

The analysis uses cutting-edge techniques based on a variety of publicly available name dictionaries.

Key findings

Academic findings: nearing parity

Almost half , or 48 per cent, of international patent applications filed by academic institutions showed at least one woman inventor in 2015, compared with 28 per cent for companies.

Variations across countries

Women’s participation rate of 29 per cent at the global level masks variations in participation rates across countries in 2015.

The Republic of Korea (50 per cent) and China (49 per cent) have the greatest gender equality in international patenting via the PCT in 2015, followed by Poland (40 per cent), Spain (35 per cent) and Singapore (34 per cent).

The greatest gender gaps among the top PCT countries of origin are found in Germany (19 per cent), Japan (19 per cent), Italy (18 per cent) and South Africa (16 per cent).

Different industries, different results

These national differences can be partly explained by the countries’ industrial specialties, as women’s participation varies substantially across technological fields.

For example, women participated more in fields related to biotechnology (58 per cent in 2015), pharmaceuticals (55 per cent), organic fine chemistry (54 per cent), and food chemistry (51 per cent).

The technologies with the least representation of women are mechanical elements (11 per cent), transport (13 per cent), machine tools (14 per cent) and engines (15 per cent).

More information

Published: 
15 November 2016

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