Mar 8, 2024 - Science

The share of women inventors is rising, but major gaps remain

Share of USPTO patents with at least one inventor with a female name, by technology area
Data: Invention, Knowledge Transfer, and Innovation report from the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios

Women's participation in scientific patents has increased since 2000, according to new data analyzing patents granted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

The big picture: The share of women inventors has grown over the last four decades but a large gap remains between the share of inventions involving men and those that include women inventors.

  • Gender influences what is invented: In biotech, fewer women inventors has resulted in fewer health products for women.

By the numbers: In 2022, the share of inventors who were women was highest (about 18%) in chemistry and lowest in mechanical engineering (roughly 6%), per the report from the National Science Foundation's National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics.

  • The fastest increase in the share between 2000 and 2022 was in electrical engineering, which grew from 5.4% to 10%.
  • The share for all patents started at 7.2% in 2000 and rose to 10.9% by 2022.

Between the lines: Women's increased participation in patenting may stem from collaboration with university advisers in graduate programs, according to the report.

  • Those collaborations are "associated with higher rates of first-time patenting by women, identifying a role for mentorship at universities in the invention process," they write.

How it works: Names on patents were used to attribute gender participation in the invention.

  • Inventor names from patents granted in the U.S. were matched to their most likely gender using a gender name dictionary. The information was verified using data sets of known inventors and their gender.
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