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Women Inventors are sticking with it, patent office says

July 21, 2020

The percentage of women inventors filing additional patents within five years of their first is on the rise.

Data from the United States Patent and Trademark Office shows improvement in the patent field for women since the 1980s. Back then, only 28% of women filed another patent within five years of their first, compared with 38% of men. In 2019, that number has jumped to 46% of women, compared with 52% of men, showing that the gender gap is narrowing.

“All Americans must have the opportunity to reap the personal and commercial benefits of applying for and receiving patent protection,” according to the report, titled “Progress and Potential 2020 update on U.S. women inventor-patentees,” which came out Tuesday.

While these are encouraging stats, women inventors on the whole are still in a minority. When looking at patents with at least one woman listed as an inventor, women accounted for 21.9% through 2019, up from 20.7% in 2016. And while more women are starting to file patents, the percentage of new women inventors stands at 17.3%, up slightly from 16.6% in 2016.

The state of women inventors is yet another facet of the struggle to recruit and retain women into STEM fields. Women make up about 28% of the STEM workforce in the US, according to the American Association of University Women. In 2019’s report, the USPTO talked about the idea of “lost Einsteins,” referring to all the women over time who could have made important contributions if they’d had the same exposure, access and opportunity as men have had historically to everything from education to visible role models.

“To retain our nation’s edge as a global innovation leader, we need even broader participation in patenting,” said Andrei Iancu, undersecretary of commerce for intellectual property and director of the USPTO, in a statement.

The report also offered other details about women inventors. For example, 41% are located in either California, Massachusetts, New York or Texas. In the years 2007-2019, Washington D.C. held the highest average rate of women inventors in the country at 19.2%, while North Dakota had the lowest at 8.3%.