Patents by women focus more on women’s health, but few women get to invent
Invention and identity
Members of social groups may be more likely to patent inventions targeted toward their own group’s needs and interests. Koning et al. examined US biomedical patents and found that although fewer women engage in commercial patenting compared with men, their patents are more likely to focus on women’s health (see the Perspective by Murray). In an evaluation of biomedical articles, the researchers found that women were also more likely to make scientific discoveries that might lead to women’s health patents. These findings demonstrate that a lack of representation among inventors translates into a lack of breadth in inventions.
Science, aba6990, this issue p. 1345; see also abh3178, p. 1260
Women engage in less commercial patenting and invention than do men, which may affect what is invented. Using text analysis of all U.S. biomedical patents filed from 1976 through 2010, we found that patents with all-female inventor teams are 35% more likely than all-male teams to focus on women’s health. This effect holds over decades and across research areas. We also found that female researchers are more likely to discover female-focused ideas. These findings suggest that the inventor gender gap is partially responsible for thousands of missing female-focused inventions since 1976. More generally, our findings suggest that who benefits from innovation depends on who gets to invent.