In July 2020, the US Patent and Trademark Office released a report titled “Progress and Potential: 2020 Update on U.S. Women inventor-Patentees”.  Building on the report released in 2019 [reported in AskPat here: https://rogowskilaw.com/study-confirms-women-have-untapped-potential-to-spur-innovation/], the 2020 Update report focuses on the trends for women inventors named on US patents granted in a three-year period from 2016 to 2019.  Prepared by the Office of the Chief Economist, the 2020 Update report shows only a very slight increase in the number of women inventors.  Women still make up a small minority of inventors in the United States, and have shown the most participation in the fields of biology, chemistry and biochemistry.  A link to the 2020 Update report is here:  https://www.uspto.gov/ip-policy/economic-research/publications/reports/progress-potential

The key findings: 

  1. Patents that include at least one woman as an inventor increased from about 7 percent in the 1980s to 21 percent by 2016, and to 21.9 percent by 2019.
  2. Gains in female participation in science and engineering occupations and entrepreneurship are not leading to broad increases in female patent inventors. In 2017, women held 2 million science and engineering jobs, but only 27,000 women were inventor-patentees.  In that same year, there were triple the number of men who were inventor-patentees.
  3. Technology-intensive U.S. states, and states in which women participate more in the overall workforce, show higher women inventor rates. (Delaware, District of Columbia, and New Jersey still have the highest percentage of women inventors.  Compare: North Dakota, New Hampshire, Montana, South Dakota, Iowa and Utah have the lowest percentage of women inventors.)
  4. Biology, Chemistry and Biochemistry fields continue to have higher percentage of women inventors than do other fields.
  5. The female share of patent inventors still is highest among large chemical and pharmaceutical companies, such as Procter & Gamble, Bristol Myers Squibb and Abbott Labs. However, among all of the top patenting companies, 3M showed the largest improvement in participation by women inventors, from 15.2% over 2007-2016 to 16.6% for 2017-2019.

Pat’s Perspective:   The effect of the Covid-19 pandemic is not reflected in the data of this Report, which stopped with year 2019.  My fear is that we will see a significant backslide in progress for women inventor patentees.  It remains a reality in the US that substantial family care burdens still fall on women.  During the pandemic, this has led many women to leave the workforce, or certainly to reduce their hours devoted to work outside the home.  It is not clear whether all of the STEM field jobs that were held by women in 2019 will still exist, or if they will be filled by women in 2020 and going forward.  I see critical lost potential for women in STEM fields as another unfortunate Covid-19 impact.

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