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Invent Together and WIPO Release Global Findings on Women Patenting Rate

March 22, 2023

For Immediate Release

U.S. women's contribution to patenting lags behind China; China has top marks in women’s share of total patents and greater patent team diversity.

Washington, DC – (March 22, 2023) – A new global report, The Gender Gap in Global Patenting: An International Comparison Over Two Decades, by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), an international forum for intellectual property policy, services, information and cooperation, and Invent Together, a U.S. alliance focused on ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to invent and patent, found that between 2016–2020 the U.S. lagged behind China in women's contribution to patenting. The U.S. ranked 13th, below the global average, when considering women's share of total patents and 9th when considering at least one woman being an inventor in a group. In both instances, China led the U.S. to take 3rd and 5th place, respectively.

"Innovation is the lifeblood of the global economy," said Holly Fechner, Executive Director of Invent Together. "U.S. technological leadership depends, in part, on ensuring that women are active participants in the innovation economy. The international innovation race is on with greater stakes than ever. The United States will lead and prosper if we accelerate gender diversity among inventors and invention teams."

The report reaffirms previous studies that women inventors are overwhelmingly underrepresented, with only one in eight listed inventors in the world being a woman.  Moreover, from 1999 to 2020, 23% of patents included at least one woman inventor, and only 4% were exclusively by women. Regional results find that Latin America and the Caribbean (21%) and Asia (17%) lead the way in women's participation, followed by North America (15%).

Among the report's findings:

  • Between 2016 and 2020, Spain led the world with its women inventor rate at 26%, followed by Colombia (22%) and Brazil (22%). The U.S. ranked 14th, below the global average, with a rate of 14%.
  • Women inventors are more prevalent in academia (21%) than in the private sector (14%). The top three most inclusive universities and research organizations regarding women's patent participation are the Spanish Consejo Superior De Investigaciones Cientificas (CSIC), the French medical research institute, Institut National De La Sante Et De La Recherche Medicale (INSERM) and Tufts University.
  • Women inventors tend to be concentrated in the fields of chemistry, with nearly 30% of women inventors in biotechnology, food chemistry, and pharmaceuticals. In Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, Europe, and Oceania, the women inventor rate is 7 to 10 times higher in chemistry than in mechanical engineering. However, it is about five times higher in North America and only two times higher in Asia.
  • A reevaluated gender parity forecast on patenting reveals that 38 years from now, in 2061, women may reach gender parity in patenting. Previous analysis showed gender parity coming in later years, 2074 or 2079. The forecast assumes conditions remain the same for women and note that regional differences will exist.

The report notes that further research is needed to understand the societal and technological factors contributing to the gender gap in patenting and to identify effective policies and actions for promoting gender diversity in innovation.

“The private sector, policymakers, and universities play a critical role in ensuring equal opportunity for all inventors,” said Fechner. "We must use the full measure of our country’s talent, creativity, and ingenuity if we intend to compete globally. Closing the patent diversity gaps would bring more and different inventions to market, grow the economy, and strengthen our national security.”

The study measures the share of patents with at least one woman as an inventor, the share of patents that can be attributed to female inventors and the proportion of female inventors. The report analyzes data from over three million patent applications filed from 1999-2020. Researchers assigned gender assignments based on names using three data sources: the PCT Patent Database, the World Gender-Names Dictionary, and partly PatentScope. The analysis removed all patents when a gender couldn't be predicted for at least one inventor.


About Invent Together

Invent Together is an alliance of organizations, universities, companies, and other stakeholders dedicated to understanding the gender, race, income, and other diversity gaps in invention and patenting and supporting public policy and private efforts to close them.

Contact: Jennifer Drogus, [email protected]