Do women patent?



Women’s contribution to technological progress is substantial and increasing in all countries. But are countries taking full advantage of women's innovative ideas? Do women with good ideas manage to turn them into marketable products?  Patents are often used to measure the rate of innovative performance and technological progress (see OECD work on patent statistics). The patent records include information on the individuals who contribute to the invention (the ‘inventors’). This information has been disaggregated by gender using an algorithm that defines whether an inventor is male or female using country-specific lists of (predominantly) male and female first names. The contribution of women and men to patenting is calculated in the chart below taking into account that inventions are often produced by a team (for example, if an invention is produced by a woman and two men together, women are assigned 1/3 of the invention).  It can be seen that the contribution of female inventors to patenting has increased up to four times over the last thirty years. For example, in the United States female inventors accounted for only 3,3% of overall patenting in 1980, and this share increased to 9,7% in 2010.



Notwithstanding the large increase over the last twenty years, it seems clear that women's talent is underutilized for boosting technology-based economic growth.


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