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Millennium Development Goal 3

Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women

Target 3.A:

Eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education, preferably by 2005, and in all levels of education no later than 2015

3.1 Ratios of girls to boys in primary, secondary and tertiary education
3.2 Share of women in wage employment in the non-agricultural sector
3.3 Proportion of seats held by women in national parliament


What WIPO is Doing on MDG 3

Although women inventors overall still constitute a minority (the patent field being the only intellectual property area where gender desegregated statistics can be compiled because the Paris Convention requires that inventors be named as such in the patent document), this minority is slowly growing and expanding into all fields of science and technology.  This is reflected not only in the growing number of women whose inventions are being patented but also in the scope of their scientific and technological activities.  Whereas women first ventured mainly into "feminine" oriented endeavors, involving home and family related inventions, such as toys and disposable diapers, frequently in an effort to find practical solutions to their every-day challenges as housewives and mothers, today women are making important contributions as professional research scientists in all aspects of mainstream and forefront sciences, from biology and medicine to genetic engineering and nanotechnology.  It is important that these contributions be acknowledged so that girls and young women can look into the future with confidence that all fields of science and technology are open to them, with equal opportunities offered to women and men to make contributions to the betterment of humanity.

With the goal of promoting gender equality and empower women, WIPO has formulated relevant support programs and activities[1] and is holding and participating at meetings on women and IP in order to contribute to improve public awareness on the importance of the involvement of women in inventions and IP rights (IPRs), and to encourage women to be familiar with patents and other IP tools in their daily lives.  Also in order to back countries in their endeavor of creating an inventive environment for women, WIPO has been participating in a variety of annual invention-related events, such as the Women’s Invention Fair and the Women’s Invention Competition, organizing exhibitions such as “Women Invent” and awarding the WIPO Medal and other distinctions to more than 200 women all around the world[2].

Women in IP policy decision making bodies

Although traditionally women have not generally held major prominence in the IP field, an area frequently seen as a "masculine" activity in years past, this has sometimes been more a matter of perception than of reality.  Moreover, in recent times, the IP field, as every aspect of human endeavor, has witnessed significant strides being made by women towards achieving equality, both in terms of opportunities and of recognition.  One very visible sign of progress is the increasing number of women acceding to high-level positions in IP administrations[3], within both the public and private sectors, and at the national, regional and international levels. This development is also reflected in the growing number of women representatives who participate in WIPO meetings and other events as well as in the high proportion of women who benefit from the various WIPO training and other educational programs.

Women and Traditional Knowledge

Women, with their central role in the household in village societies, have invariably been responsible for the food and nutritional needs of their families, and therefore possess a detailed awareness of the species and ecosystems which surround them.  In traditional agriculture, women are involved in almost all aspects of farming, from seed selection and planting, to harvesting, weeding, winnowing and storing grain.  They are often the local educators, passing on traditional knowledge and technologies, such as the proverbial "grandmother's cures", which may hold the key to many curative plant uses, and acting as traditional birth attendants in many rural societies, where there is no access to "modern" medical facilities.  In many cultures, women have been instrumental in developing and sustaining the techniques and designs for textiles, clothing, and other valuable forms of traditional cultural expression.  The international community is beginning to acknowledge the importance of women's roles in biodiversity management, and to revise their strategies to conserve traditional knowledge (TK) and traditional cultural expressions (TCEs) by facilitating a greater participation by women.  Furthermore, in recent years, significant questions have been raised regarding the relationship of the IP system to the preservation and promotion of TK and TCEs.

As the specialized UN agency responsible for the promotion of creativity and innovation worldwide, WIPO has worked in the field of traditional cultural expressions (folklore) for over thirty years, often in collaboration with UNESCO, and has, more recently, considered specific IP issues related to traditional knowledge (TK) and genetic resources.  WIPO has consulted with a wide range of stakeholders, such as indigenous and local communities, NGOs, governmental representatives, academics, researchers and private sector representatives, to determine the IP needs and expectations of both female and male holders of TK[4].  Also the Intergovernmental Committee on IP and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore (the IGC), where about 200 NGOs observers participate in sessions of the IGC as ad hoc observers, including several which focus specifically on women's issues, is undertaking text-based negotiations towards the development of an international instruments for the effective protection of TCEs, TK and genetic resources.

WIPO's work in this area also involves the organization of a wide range of traditional knowledge-related capacity-building activities, such as the coordination of local, national and regional seminars, workshops and consultations, and the publication of case-studies and surveys which offer some particular insights into the relationship between women, IP and TCEs.

Women and education in the intellectual property area

With the increasing importance of IP, which now permeates virtually every aspect of human life, it has become imperative to step up human resource development activity in this field including for women.  The WIPO Worldwide Academy (Academy) was established in 1998 as a central coordinating mechanism for human resource development activity undertaken by the WIPO.  The overall objective of the Academy is to provide teaching and training services in IP to its Member States. This objective is sought to be met through the organization of various training programs and activities, both in Geneva and in other parts of the world, for which the Academy also cooperates with a large number of IP offices and academic institutions.  While dealing with this task, the target audience for the Academy is not restricted to professionals working in this field (academia, teachers and trainers, examiners, government officials dealing with policy issues) but extends to the civil society and other stakeholders in the IP system.  Women are an important constituent of the Academy’s programs and form a significant part of the total participants in its various training programs[5].

Women and Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises

In country after country, statistics show that even during these years of economic crisis and recession, the one robust sector providing economic growth, increased productivity and employment has been that of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).  What is less known is that in many countries up to 40 percent to 50 percent of such enterprises are owned and run by women - women who are actual or potential owners of trademarks, service marks, trade name as well as of industrial designs, patents and copyright.  Therefore, women, just as men, deserve to be given the means to enable them to take advantage of IP as a tool of economic and social empowerment and it is critical that outreach programs to build awareness about the importance of IP and its protection target these women as well as the women running the majority of micro enterprises and the many cooperatives that are proving so successful, especially in developing countries.  

Due to the fact that women seeking to generate income by setting up and developing a business, usually operate in micro, small or medium-sized enterprises; consequently, a wider and more effective use of the IP system would enable innovative and creative women doing business in SMEs to enhance their market position and to contribute to the economic growth of their countries.

The SME Program of WIPO contributes to promote among women entrepreneurs and women entrepreneurship associations a good understanding of the IP system in order to enable them to establish an IP strategy suitable to the needs, possibilities and capacities of their business that helps them to face key business concerns, including raising finances, increasing the market value of the enterprise, marketing products and services, finding partners and suppliers, exporting, acquiring technology and conducting business transactions on the Internet.

Finally, with respect to Targets 3.1 and 3.2, reference is also made to the text relating to MDGs 1 and 2 (see above), which encompasses WIPO’s activities relating to the education and job creation related MDGs.

[1] See for example at https://www.wipo.int/women-and-ip/en/activities/

[2] See at https://www.wipo.int/ip-outreach/en/awards/women/

[3] For further information on Women in Intellectual Property Administrations, please see at https://www.wipo.int/women-and-ip/en/ip_administrations/

[4] For example, see at https://www.wipo.int/women-and-ip/en/programs/tk.htm

[5] For further information and statistics on women’s participation at IP programs, see at https://www.wipo.int/women-and-ip/en/programs/academy.htm