It Would Be A Huge Boost To The Economy If Women Would Finally Start Inventing Things

There’s already a discrepancy in the number of women and men who pursue degrees in science and engineering (S&E), and there’s an even bigger gender gap when it comes to securing patents.

In fact, only 7.5 per cent of U.S. patent holders are women.

The National Bureau of Economic Research just released a report, “Why Don’t Women Patent?,” that shows how stark the contrast is, and what’s behind these surprising numbers.

First of all, only “7 per cent of the gap is accounted for by women’s lower probability of holding a science or engineering degree … and 78 per cent of it is accounted to differences among those with a science or engineering degree.” 

So it comes down to what women are doing with their degrees. Researchers found that women with S&E degrees are more likely to work in unrelated fields. Of those who do work in S&E fields, they’re less likely to hold development, design and management positions — which is one of the biggest indicators of whether or not a S&E professional will develop a patent.

It’s also important to note that women only hold 5.5 per cent of all commercial patents, which are most closely tied to economic growth.

According to the report,

Patents “are a proxy for technological progress, an unmeasurable driver of productivity and ultimately economic growth. While a patent represents a specific invention, patenting may be correlated with other unpatented innovations, including those embodied in tacit knowledge and disseminated by inter-firm mobility. The magnitude of the gender gap in patenting raises the concern that, rather than reflecting comparative advantage or differing tastes by gender, the gap reflects gender inequity and an inefficient use of female innovative capacity.”

The researchers project that closing the gender gap would increase commercialized patents by 24 per cent and increase GDP per capita by 2.7 per cent.

research on patents

Photo: National Bureau of Economic Research

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