More women in academia are filing patents: Study

Washington: The number of women across the globe filing patents with the US Patent and Trade Office over the past 40 years has risen fastest within academia compared to all other sectors of the innovation economy, says a study.

The team examined 4.6 million utility patents issued from 1976 to 2013. The study tracked female patent filers across 185 countries, all of whom filed their discoveries with the US patent office and the results of the study were reported online in the journal Plos One.

“To find out that women are patenting at higher rates in academia compared to industry, government and individuals is a surprising discovery,” said Cassidy R. Sugimoto, an associate professor of informatics at School of Informatics and Computing at Indiana University, Bloomington.

“We had thought it might fall lower since patenting in still considered ‘optional’ in terms of promotion in academia, although it’s increasingly encouraged,” Sugimoto added.

From 1976 to 2013, the overall percentage of patents with women’s names attached rose from an average of two to three percent across all areas to 10 percent in industry, 12 percent in individuals and 18 percent in academia.

The patents from women frequently included contributors from a wider variety of fields. This suggests women inventors are more collaborative and multi-disciplinary.

“The relative success of large research universities in fostering women’s innovation might be due in part to the unique emphasis placed on intellectual communities in academia,” Sugimoto said.

The proportional rate of patents with women’s names was highest in Eastern Europe, Asia and several African countries, a result reflecting other research that found greater gender parity in communist and former-communist countries.

“We’re pleased to play a role in the university’s overall effort to engage more women in science, technology, engineering and math,” said Bobby Schnabel, dean of the School of Computing and Informatics, Indiana University.