Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone, Henry Ford invented the moving assembly line, Robert Fulton invented the steamboat – the list goes on. However, systemic barriers created by social expectations and outright discrimination have long disadvantaged women in the patenting process.
Current statistics paint a bleak picture of women’s opportunity to invent. Only a small percentage of patents are filed by women and a pronounced gender gap exists between women and men in the innovation ecosystem. Even the growth of women in STEM has not translated to increased patenting rates for female inventors.
But that picture is improving. A recent study from United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) found that change is happening. The number of patents with at least one-woman inventor increased from 20.7% in 2016 to 21.9% by the end of 2019 and the share of U.S. inventors receiving patents who are women increased from 12.1% in 2016 to 12.8% in 2019. This also led to a decrease in the gender gap in the number of women inventors who remain active by patenting again within five years.
But more work remains to be done to help achieve parity faster. While women’s representation has improved in patenting, the gap is closing far too slowly. Invent Together is working with advocates, inventors and other organizations to break down traditional barriers to invention to empower female and diverse inventors. Empowering all inventors is not only a critical goal for equity and inclusion but will help unleash the full potential of American innovation.
As we celebrate International Women’s Day, we must also remember the enormous contributions from women inventors like Mary Anderson, Stephanie Kwolek Kevlar, Josephine Crochane, Kavita Shukla, Anna Stork and Andrea Sreshta. These bold innovators have created and patented inventions that we still see in use today, from the first commercially successful automatic dishwasher or the car windshield wiper to innovative methods to extend the shelf life of fresh produce.
All of these inventions came from the minds and hard work of women who took a stance and fought to overcome unfair – and often enormous – barriers. We can honor the courage and perseverance of these innovators by empowering the next generation of women inventors while working to break down the systemic barriers that still exist today.