By Simon Webster ‑ April 20, 2018
2018’s World Intellectual Property Day will celebrate the ingenuity and creativity of women innovators. The celebration comes at a time when the total number of female inventors filing international patent applications has tripled year-on-year, according to the most recent figures from the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO).
Women have played a crucial role in IP throughout history, being credited for inventions such as the first computer language and the Mars Rover. So many of the innovations from women were ahead of their time. For instance, while working for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Hungarian born Maria Telkes focused her research on solar energy and, by 1948, she had designed the first home completely powered by sunlight. Only now is the importance of renewable energy really be recognized as crucial in reducing carbon intensity and tackling the climate change issue.
The legacy of successful women inventors carries on into the 21st century. Inventor and entrepreneur Mandy Haberman’s inspiration was born out of a desire to support her child who had been born with a cleft lip, causing feeding difficulties. The Haberman Feeder bottle helped not only her own daughter, but is now used widely to support infants with sucking difficulties.
Women are increasingly taking a leading role in IP, with more women heading up Fortune 500 companies today than ever before, (despite the number still being extremely low). Women are in charge of brand-led companies including IBM, PepsiCo, General Motors and Yahoo!.
Despite general improvements in gender equality around the world, gender gaps in patenting persist. WIPO’s latest data shows that 30.5 per cent of international patent applications filed via WIPO included at least one female inventor. While it is encouraging that the number of applications has nearly doubled since 2007, gender parity remains out of reach. At the current rate, gender inequality is predicted to balance out in 2076.
Diverse businesses are better able to understand their customer base, resulting in innovation that generates maximum growth. In a report by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, closing the gender gap was found to potentially increase GDP in the US by as much as ten per cent.
Addressing gender divides remains in the industry’s best interests. Female inventors are filing more patents and building a legacy of innovation. As women increasingly enter IP awards, lead IP conferences and strengthen a network of women already innovating in the IP industry, 2018 is set to be an empowering year for gender equality.
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