WIPO reveals huge gender gap in innovation

This is an onsite edited excerpt of the G|O Briefing newsletter

The latest preliminary data metrics released by the World Intellectual Property Organization show that women represented only 16.5% of inventors named in international patent applications filed in 2020, up just 3.7% from a share of 12.8% in 2010. The low representation of women in international patent applications, WIPO said, is concerning, indicating that “women's innovative potential is severely underutilized. This gender gap in innovation is everyone's loss.”

The data reveal that at the current pace of growth, gender parity in innovative activity will not be reached until 2058 and that the divide in this important area for the 21st-century economy is substantially greater than the closely tracked gender pay gap where the International Labour Organization estimates women “continue to be paid on average 20% less than men across the world.”

Fields where female inventor share was highest in 2020, included Biotechnology (29.5%), Food Chemistry (29.2%), Pharmaceuticals (28.6%), and Analysis of Biological Materials (25.9%), while the female inventor filing share for IT methods and management and for medical technology, were 16.3 % each, and lower for Civil Engineering (10.2%) and for Mechanical Elements (7.7%) ."

Overall, the female share of total inventors for the top ten application origins by inventor count were women from China with a 22.4% share, followed by South Korea (20.5%), and France (18.4%). the U.S. (16.6%), and Switzerland (15.5%).

According to WIPO, in 2020 women inventors filed international patent applications more frequently in Latin America and the Caribbean (19.2% of applicants) than in any other region, followed by Asia (17.4%), North America (16.5%), Oceania (14.9%), Europe (14.2%), and Africa (12.1%).

WIPO says they are actively working towards gender equality in the IP system through systemic gender mainstreaming and targeted activities such as putting the spotlight on barriers that may exclude women from using IP services. In addition, it points out other barriers, including the lack of access to networks, mentors, sponsors, and role models, scarcity of financial resources, and negative bias.