The world of patents and inventing is a male dominated industry. While women are filing patents and inventing more than ever before, they still face obstacles. As of 2016, women only made up 12 percent of inventors on patents filed, according to USPTO data. While many patents name at least one female inventor, such as a co-inventor on a team of men, the rate of solely female inventorship is still low. Here we’ll analyze the history, current obstacles and solutions to closing the gender gap in patent filing.
Women have in fact been patenting ideas since 1809, when Mary Kies was granted a patent for her method of weaving straw and silk together in hat-making. Though many men have dominated the system, women are to thank for many essential products that we use today. Without the invention of the life raft, which saved hundreds during the Titanic’s sinking, or disposable diapers, which are vital to mothers and babies, our world wouldn’t be what it is today.
The Root of the Problem
Women face discrimination and lower odds of success at each level of the patent application process. Women of color and women who live in a rural area where there is a lack of resources face even greater odds.
Women also face obstacles in lack of financial support for their ideas, as they typically have trouble securing funding, and patents are not cheap. In 2018, women only raised 2.2 percent of $130 billion that was invested over 2018, according to Fortune.
Another aspect of the problem can be traced to the STEM struggle with young girls and women, where less of them are entering the science, technology, engineering and mathematics subject learning and jobs areas. Through encouragement of young girls and women to pursue these subjects, we are encouraging them to also participate in the possibilities that these fields have for invention and patenting.
However, even with fair funding, and more women entering STEM fields, there is still a discrepancy in approval rates for patents from female inventors. A 2018 study featured in Nature Biotechnology found that no matter the field, processing times are slower, rejection rates are higher, and appeal rates are lower for women applying for patents.
The Path Forward
At the rate that we’re going now, it could take a long time before women reach the number of patents that men have. But there is hope, thanks to the concerted efforts of forward-thinking organizations and individual trailblazers.
Many organizations are working to bridge the patent gender gap, including the Female Founders Alliance, which works to help female entrepreneurs get their product to market and has a startup accelerator to assist with that.
Changes are headed in a positive direction on the internal level as well, as the USPTO hired a female director in 2015. Michelle K. Lee was not only the first woman to be appointed to the position in over 200 years, she was also the first person of color to hold the position.
The USPTO’s hiring of a female director was a great step forward in helping women see that it is possible for them to have a seat at the table. Unfortunately, Lee resigned from the position a few years later, but still works to help support females in innovative industries.
Global Patent Solutions works with inventors and entrepreneurs of all genders and backgrounds, as we understand how important innovation is to the world. If you have a great idea and you want to frame a foolproof patent application, we can help. Contact us today to get started.