World Intellectual Property Organization

Women and Intellectual Property

Women contribute to all fields of creativity and intellectual endeavors. Despite this, they remain underrepresented in many areas. WIPO is committed to promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment both within the Organization and in the wider world of intellectual property (IP).

From multiple Nobel Prize-winning scientist Marie Curie, to Stephanie Kwolek, inventor of Kevlar fiber used in bullet-proof vests; from writer and the first female recipient of the Man Asian Literary Prize Kyung-sook Shin, to art legend Frida Kahlo – women make vital and valued contributions across all fields of IP. 

The indigenous women of Panama are adept at turning their traditional knowledge into an IP asset. View more videos featuring women in IP on YouTube.

The challenge: gender gaps and insufficient data

Despite the general improvements in gender equality around the world, gender gaps in patenting, in particular, persist. While more women than men graduate from universities in many countries (OECD, 2014), patenting by women remains lower than, for example, their authorship of scientific papers.

For example, the share of women penning scientific publications in 2005 stood at 24.1% in the U.S.A. and 19.2% in Germany, yet women’s share in patent applications for the same year was much lower at 8.2% in the U.S.A. and 4.9% in Germany (Frietsch et al., 2009).

Only limited data is available with which to measure women’s contributions in other areas of intellectual property, such as trademarks and copyright. As such, more work is needed to ensure that both women and men can equally access and use the IP system and profit fully from their creative and innovative assets for economic, social, and cultural development.

Do Patents Have Gender?

Over the past several decades, gender studies has influenced numerous areas of law, often illuminating hidden biases that had gone unappreciated. This research paper discusses gender issues in patent law, relating patents to the previous literature on law and gender, and suggesting potential ways forward for equitable systems of innovation and creativity.

Browse our full list of academic resources.

Stories from the field

A selection of content on the theme of women and IP. Find more case studies and WIPO Magazine articles on the topic of women and IP.

(Photo: m2m)

How a good name can save lives

Trademarks and savvy branding helped this South African NGO to get closer to its goal of preventing mother to child transmission of HIV/AIDs.

(Photo: HBTL)

Nine inventive women

To mark International Women’s Day 2015, users of WIPO’s eTISC social-networking platform for innovators paid tribute to women around the world who are developing creative technologies to solve problems.

(Photo: Flickr/WWEF)

Treading a new path for IP and development in Africa

Find out how one of Ethiopia's top female entrepreneuers co-founded footwear brand soleRebels and helped steer it to global success.

(Image: Flickr/Senorhorst Jahnsen)

Pappadums and the Path to Empowerment

Discover a successful cooperative established by Indian women that has developed a unique model for the development and empowerment of low-income female workers.

WIPO initiatives

WIPO adopted its Policy on Gender Equality PDF, WIPO Policy on Women and Gender Equality in 2014. It is intended to provide a general framework for how the Organization aims to integrate a gender perspective in its policies and programs as well as in human resources policies and procedures. The Policy includes both gender mainstreaming in WIPO policies and programs, as well as gender equality within WIPO’s workplace, including staffing.


Frequently in cooperation with national IP offices and other partners, WIPO organizes informational and capacity building events that focus on the creativity and innovation potential of women.

GVA Gender Champions

(Image: Geneva Gender Champions Network)

WIPO is proud to be part of the Geneva Gender Champions Network, which brings together committed leaders to serve as champions for gender equality.

Women at WIPO

(Photo: WIPO)

Women work at WIPO in the full range of professions: from lawyers, to member state delegates, support staff, and more. Browse our women and IP pictures on Flickr.

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