Historically, women have been underrepresented in the list of patented inventors. The proportion of female inventors in all fields was between 2% to 3% before 1965. However, since then, the number of women inventors has been growing at an accelerated pace. The proportion of women inventors on the planet almost doubled from 1998 (6.8%) to 2017 (12.7%). A study conducted by the Institute-for-women’s-Policy-Research estimated that by 2010 less than 20% of all the patents listed at least 1 female inventor. In 2018, women inventors were associated with about 13.07% of all patent applications. Regardless of the growth, the number of female inventors on the planet still lagged behind the number of women who graduated with math, engineering, technology, and science degrees in 2015.
Russia stood out among the countries with the most patent applications in the last 20 years, with about 17% of all the patent applications in the country featuring a female inventor. Conversely, less than 1 application in every 20 applications included a woman inventor. The imbalance is caused by the low number of women interested in careers in mathematics, engineering, science, and technology fields. Despite the many campaigns to attract women in these fields, the number of women working in these fields is still very low.
Fields With The Highest Number Of Female Inventors
Over two-thirds of the patents, applications come from individual male inventors or a team of male inventors, while only 6% of the total patent applications come from individual female inventors. Female teams own about 0.3% of the global patent applications. Most women inventors are the only females in predominantly male-teams. Some of the fields with the highest number of female inventors include Biotechnology and Pharmaceutical patents. About 53% of the biotechnological patents and 52% of all the pharmaceutical patents have at least one female inventor. In electrical engineering, only 10% of the patents feature a woman inventor.
Challenges Faced By Women Inventors Before The Mid-20th Century
Before the twentieth century, women, particularly married women, were denied rights to enter into contracts, earn salaries, own properties (including patents), and learn the knowledge and technical skills that would lead to successful inventions. These restrictions made it impossible for women to invent anything or if they did, be credited for their inventions. In the United States, most patented inventors were men until 1809 when Mary Kies Dixon became the first American woman to get a patent. Dixon invented a new way of weaving straws using thread and silk to create hats. However, most female inventors like Margaret Knight had to rely on the court to prove that she was indeed the one who invented the machine for manufacturing 1,000flat-bottomed grocery bags per day. Apparently, Charles Annan obtained a patent after seeing Knight’s prototype. Margaret had to produce copious drawings and designs for her prototype before the court could award her the patents for the invention.
Another female inventor who turned to the court to get her patent is Susan Hibbard. In 1874 Hibbard invented the feather duster; however, she had to turn to the court to stop her husband from obtaining a patent for her invention. Even though the details of the case are quite vague, reports show that Susan’s husband was unable to recite the critical features of Susan’s design before the court. Susan was awarded her patent on May 30, 1876. An excellent example of a woman inventor who was not recognized for her inventions was Catharine Greene. Catharine did not get proper recognition for her contribution to the design of cotton-gin, which was patented in 1794 by Eli Whitney.
Women Inventors After The Mid-20th Century
Everything changed in the mid-twentieth century when new professional and educational opportunities for females emerged. Before the mid-1900s, females were excluded from studying science, engineering, mathematics, and technology. Women had few opportunities to get employment in the fields that could result in patentable inventions. If obtaining a patent was almost impossible, then commercializing their invention was also quite difficult. Several banks denied women loans before the mid-twentieth century. Without capital to commercialize their inventions, the patent was just a piece of paper. Several women struggled to overcome the stigma of females in businesses before the mid-twentieth century and win over retailers, manufacturers, and investors.
Despite the challenges, there are several successful female inventors in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. Bette Graham Nesmith managed to invent and commercialize Liquid-Paper-correction fluid in the 1950s. Bette’s invention was a solution to the issue of retyping an entire page just because of typos. After observing painters covering their mistake with another layer of paint, she decided to create a paint-based mixture that she could use to cover her typing mistakes. Graham managed to set up her company, which she sold in 1980 to Gillette Corporation.
Another successful female inventor who was listed as one of the most influential people in 2012 by Time magazine was Sara Blakely. Sarah is famous for her pantyhose-undergarment invention, which is known as Spanx. Sarah’s idea was turned down by most hosiery mills based in North California since they did not see any value in her invention. Blakely’s invention became popular after Oprah Winfrey named it as a ‘’Favorite-Thing’’ in November 2000. Blakely earned $4million from sales during the first year. She signed a contract with QVC (a home-shopping channel) in 2001 and managed to sell 8,000spanx within the first 6minutes of operation. Forbes Magazine named Blakely and the youngest, self-made female-billionaire in 2012. In 2014, Forbes listed her as the ninety-third most powerful woman on the planet.
Countries With The Highest Proportion Of Female Inventors
According to research published by the United Kingdom’s Intellectual-Property-Office, a huge percentage of the patents on the planet are filled by male inventors. The study focused on the gender profiles in a global patent filing from 1998 to 2017. The research confirmed that over the last 20years, the number of female patent applicants has started improving. In the U.K. and the U.S., the proportion of women inventors who applied for patents between 1998 and 2017 stood at 9.44% and 10.04%. However, some nations, particularly from Africa, have a higher proportion of female patented inventors. Africa was represented by 5 countries in the top-10 list. Togo (57.14%) had the highest percentage of female patent inventors on the planet, followed by Uganda (44.55%). According to the United Kingdom’s Intellectual-Property Office, there were more patented women inventors than men in Togo from 1998 to 2017. Other African countries with the most women inventors include Liberia (38.89%), Rwanda (37.5%), and Botswana (35.71%). The United States and the UK did not feature in the top-100 list of nations with the most female inventors.
The Future Of Women Inventors
There is no doubt that all inventions that advance the production of new technologies from any gender are crucial. Conversely, women have been underrepresented in this area for the last few centuries. However, with technology ever-changing, obtaining patents has become more critical than ever. By instilling women with confidence and advising them to take credit for their idea, the number of women inventors can continue growing. With the number of female students pursuing STEM-centered education increasing, most women are exposed to fields with patent-worthy inventions that can benefit them in the future. Therefore, the number of female inventors will increase. Unlike in the past, when the world did not appreciate women inventors, modern inventors are recognized. It is easier for female inventors to get patents for their inventions and also sell their products or get an investor. Technology has made it possible for inventors to be recognized globally.
10 Countries With Most Female Inventors In The World
|Proportion of female inventors in patent applications from 1998 to 2017
|Papua New Guinea