Innovation Gender Gap

Innovation and creativity are the engines of economic growth. Policies that support and encourage these activities are likely to spur creativity and innovative thinking, potentially solve the challenges today, and increase living standards worldwide.

However, there seems to be a disparity when examining who is behind the innovative and creative endeavors, especially when measured through participation in the intellectual property (IP) protection system. In particular, there is a gender participation issue in the IP system.

Video: The number of women filing patent applications is steadily rising.

Innovation gender gap stories

Why is the gender gap an issue?

The unequal participation of women to men in the IP system is troubling. It potentially indicates missed opportunities to address pressing global concerns from women innovators and creators.

In addition, it may affect innovation and economic productivity, implying a burden on the wealth and growth of the economy.

Narrowing the gender participation gap is of utmost importance to meet the UN's Sustainable Development Goal #5 of achieving gender equality and empower all women and girls.

UN Sustainable Development Goal #5

What do we know?

Many factors can account for these disparities along the innovation production chain. Among these, three are of particular relevance from an economics perspective.

  • Firstly, men are more likely than women to enter the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. However, this ratio is slowly improving in various parts of the world.
  • Secondly, a significant share of women in the STEM fields leaves the workforce. Studies on this leaky pipeline phenomenon, especially in academia, point to gendered institutional policies and implicit bias in the promotion and tenure processes in exacerbating this problem.
  • Thirdly, women who do patent their inventions tend to face difficulties in commercializing their products, including raising money from venture capitalists.

Gender Equality, Diversity and Intellectual Property

Explore what else WIPO is doing to promote gender inclusion in our work.

What can we do?

There are two ways in which economic researchers and policy analysts can try to address this pressing matter:

Identify women inventors and creators

The first step is establishing a baseline to address the problem. Where do women inventors and creators stand? The current share of women's participation in innovation and IP would help to situate how far is left to bridge the gender gap, partially fulfilling the UN SDG #5.

In this regard, IP data - patents, utility models, industrial design, and registered copyrights, to name a few - contain a rich set of information on inventors, designers, and creators.

To support national IP offices and researchers more broadly, WIPO compiles the latest methodologies and best practices to help in measuring women's participation in the innovation ecosystem.

Understand what the challenges for women inventors and creators are

A second step is to encourage quantitative research at the intersection of gender participation, innovation, and creativity. The innovation and IP data combined with additional data related to economic activities can provide insights on women's contribution to social-economic development and economic growth.

Questions to address include:

  • How are women participating in Innovation and IP creation?
  • What challenges do women face to start and when innovating?
  • What policies can improve gender balance?

Get involved by joining our GitHub community on IP, Gender and Innovation.