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Share of Women Inventors Increasing, but Gaps Remain

March 8, 2020

Preliminary WIPO statistics reveal that in 2019 less than one fifth of inventors named in international patent applications were women. It has taken 25 years for this share to almost double, from 9.5 percent in 1995 to 18.7 percent in 2019. While numbers are going in the right direction, at the current pace parity amongst PCT-listed inventors will only be reached in 2044.

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

International patent applications are an important benchmark for measuring innovative activity in the global economy. The low representation of women is of particular concern as it indicates that a huge range of talents is not being put at the disposal of humanity to help solve pressing social problems – such as climate change, sustainable energy production and consumption or food security – and to increase competiveness.

The findings

Women inventors tend to be concentrated in specific disciplines, with approximately 60 percent filing applications in the fields of biotechnology, pharmaceuticals and organic fine chemistry.

Engines, pumps and turbines, and mechanical elements are the fields in which women filed the least patent applications in 2019.

Consistently with trends in the past decade, women inventors continue to be more prevalent within academia (27.1 percent in 2019) as opposed to the private sector (17.8 percent).

What is WIPO doing?

WIPO is actively working towards gender equality and full female participation in the international intellectual property (IP) rights system, both through systematic gender mainstreaming in its work program and activities specifically dedicated to this goal. For example, the project “Increasing the Role of Women in Innovation and Entrepreneurship” is casting light on the impediments that women face while approaching the patent filing system.

Furthermore, the WIPO Academy is building a solid pipeline of women IP experts through training. Women’s participation in the WIPO Academy has increased over 2,400 fold since 1998, and, in 2019, women made up more than half of participants in every program.

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