EU patent applications: less than one in seven come from a woman

EU patent applications: less than one in seven come from a woman

Few of the inventors in Europe who apply for a patent for their invention are women. Only 13.2 percent of all patent applications are in the name of a woman, a number lower than in the United States, China or South Korea. In the Netherlands, the gender gap is wider.

This is according to a new study conducted by the European Patent Office, the results of which were published today. For the first time, this institution examined the proportion of female inventors in patent applications between 1978 and 2019.

The research shows, among other things, that the proportion of women in patent applications is 13.2% lower (the 2019 figure) than in other industrialized countries, such as South Korea (28.3%), China (26.8%) and the United States. states (15 percent).

best solutions

The European Patent Office investigation does not address why it is important for as many women as men to apply for patents. The implicit assumption is that diverse teams come up with better solutions. Put people of different races, different origins, and different educations together and a business-driven engineering solution will be better than having more homogeneous teams.

Some of the female inventors who have been honored by the European Patent Office in recent years are:

Holland in the depth

Return to the survey results. Within Europe, the Netherlands is far behind when it comes to the share of women in patent applications. During 2010-2019, 11.9 percent of patents were in the name of a woman. This places the Netherlands in the bottom quartile of countries, as shown in the chart below.

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Countries with more women applying for patents include Latvia, Portugal and Croatia. Lower scores were achieved from the Netherlands in Austria, Germany and Norway.

The share of female inventors in patents is increasing over time in Europe, as this graph shows:

Why are women less likely to apply for patents

The European Patent Office has not investigated why women apply for patents so much less than men, and EPO press officer Jana Kotalik emailed questions from The engineer. “Our main goal with this research was to provide data that makes this gender gap clear, in order to support policies that initiate change.”

However, Kotalik sees a possible explanation. Our numbers show that the proportion of women among faculty decreases with career progression. There are fewer and fewer on the way from student to PhD student to researcher to seasoned researcher applying for patents. It seems that women face more obstacles in the career of science and technology. This is the case in the Netherlands, but is also a problem in many other European countries. Women sometimes do other work, or, as is often the case in the Netherlands, they choose to work part-time.

A man or a woman?
Since there is no “gender” box in patent applications, EPO investigators have had to rely on the names of the applicants, along with their country of residence. The authors of this report used a method also used by patent investigators in the United States and the United Kingdom. They try to link the names in the patents to the lists of individuals who already exist, on which the gender is registered,” explains press officer Jana Kotalik of the European Patent Office. This approach has its limitations. Take a first name that can be a man or a woman, such as “Andrea.” This is a male first name known as Italy, but in most other countries, Andrea is a female.
“We are trying to determine whether a particular Andrea is a man or a woman depending on where that person lives. But that of course has its limitations, just as we are less able to estimate people from Asia whether they are male or female on the basis of only a first name. This ambiguity The first names thus creates some uncertainty in the numbers.

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