Women are half of the world population, but do they play a direct role in the development and growth of innovation at the same rate of 50 percent?
The participation of women in science and technology has been steadily increasing during the last decades. However, their activities, particularly in innovative fields still remains low and the number of women inventors is not rising as much as it should be.
The results of a study published by UNESCO in 2015 (Figure 1), confirms the gender inequality in Education output. The chart which is known as the Leaking pipe verifies that in spite of the almost equal progression of females and males through higher education, lower proportions of females could reach further steps and the output in research and innovation careers is dropping out.
Gender inequality hinders economic growth by lowering the pool of potential talents for production, through distorted access of one gender to education, employment, entrepreneurship, and innovation.
Figure 1: The "leaky pipeline" showed the proportion of females and males reaching each stage of higher education, research jobs, and inventorship (reference)
Although the rate of female participation in innovative activities through patents has increased during recent decades, according to the research results, gender equality at the current rate, would be reached in no fewer than 118 years (reference). This trend is attaining to given the policy efforts aimed at diminishing the gender gap around the world.
For analyzing the gender gap in the world of invention, several studies have been done both by patent offices and academic researchers. However, these analyses support that there is a significant gender gap in patenting but it is narrowing, although at different rates across regions.
For example, USPTO (2020) recognizes notable differences in the number of male and female patent inventors which persist despite greater female participation in science and engineering occupations and entrepreneurship. The report states that the number of patents with at least one woman inventor increased from about 7% in the 1980s to a maximum of 21% by 2016.
One of the most comprehensive recent studies, which has been used in the current report as a basis for comparison of inventor gender proportion, was done by the UK Intellectual Property Office (UK IPO).
UK IPO published the results of its study on “gender profiles in worldwide patenting” by included all published patent applications from 1975 to 2014 and their inventors worldwide in the PATSTAT database (UK IPO 2016). They noted that the world of patenting remains male-dominated: they stated that about 7% of all inventors in the data were female during 1975-2015. In 2019 UKIPO updated the report with the added newer results (2014 to 2017). This shows 73% of all patent applications were coming from all-male inventor teams and 96% of all applications had at least one male inventor. On the other hand, the proportion of patents involving at least one female inventor increased significantly from 4.9% in 1975 to over 28% in 2015. The updated version of the study that was published in 2019 (UK IPO, 2019) reports that between 1998 and 2017 the proportion of female inventors rose from 6.8% to almost 14%
What is the share of Iranian females in Iran’s invention? What is the proportion of Iranian female inventors in comparison to the global average? “What are the Iranian female proportion of inventor types?
Iranian Female Inventors
The most reliable method for estimating female inventors in each country is checking the total number of patents registered in the national patent office. Since there is generally no specific sorting of inventors based on gender, neither in the Iran patent office nor the world's well-known patent databases, therefore it is necessary to check all patent document’s bibliographic data separately. In fact, there is no easy way to establish the gender of the inventors due to limitations of the data, and all previous methodologies rely on using additional databases of common names to identify gender
Moreover, since Iran’s national Patent office, only published the granted inventions, therefore to investigate gender proportion, it is necessary to closely work with the Iran Patent office to investigate all filled documents which is a difficult, complex, and time-consuming job. Therefore, a reliable statistical population which was able to represent all community with higher confidence degree would be advantageous to estimate the gender proportion in Iran.
In the present analysis, all filed [registered] applications in the KanoonIP portal were examined as a representative sample. This representative sample could represent as closely as possible the gender proportion of the invention society of Iran with following reasons:
· KanoonIP is a non-profit association, recognized as Iran’s most active IP body dedicated to promote intellectual property (IP) systems and expand IP management supports throughout the country. Aiming at building IP capacity all over the country, KanoonIP increasing public access to IP-related education materials. In addition to many face-to-face workshops in various cities and provinces of Iran, KanoonIP has already launched a series of training webinars to cover all nation’s IPs and especially, covering patent basic knowledge. This is done without any gender preference or selection.
· KanoonIP is the main source for supporting national innovators who intended to file their patent applications in foreign patent offices with the purpose of commercialization. In fact, KanoonIP (through Iran’s vice presidency financial support) is of assistance Iranian inventors in preparing, filing, and prosecuting national invention applications in major patent offices around the globe such as USPTOT EPO، PCT، JPO، KIPO،, etc.
Therefore many Iranian inventors who see commercialization opportunity in their invention in any technical field, try to register their inventions in the KanoonIP portal to benefit from KanooIP supports.
The KanoonIP supporting process of national inventions to file and prosecute in the foreign patent office has the following steps: submiting the necessary appendices of the inventions, such as claims, description, and drawings. The information that the inventor provides to submit in the KanoonIP portal remains secret and the process is included an automatic NDA agreement between inventors and KanoonIP.
All of the filed inventions in the kanoonIP portal (those either have filed already in the national patent office, by considering one year period in accordance with the Paris convention; or those that are going to be filed in the national Patent office by considering the grace period,) are examined by KanoonIP patent examination team. To assess the patentability and the possibility of granting in the foreign Patent Offices, the examination process includes formal review and substantive examination similar to what is done in national patent offices. The evaluation of commercialization potential are also been implicitly done to ensure the economic value for further commercialization abroad.
All filed applications are substantially examined by specialized search teams who trained already in an international manner. If the applications are approved, the files will enter the next stage, which is to file the KanoonIP approved applications in a selected reign patent offices (USPTO, EPO, SIPO, etc, or PCT system.).
Data collection method
The data required for this study was provided through the information collected from the KanoonIP portal. The data were laid out in an Excel file that included the names of the inventors and invention owners, the date of declaration in the kanoonIP portal, the status of the case (the reject/approval status in KanoonIP or the foreign patent office if the case was approved already
The total number of invention applications filled in the KanoonIP portal is about 2300 application (since 2010) To determine the female proportion of Iranian inventors (who filed his/her application in KanoonIP portal), each application was sorted based on the inventor's name (has the female name; if yes, how is the inventor type in that application).
Sorting of cases is implemented based on two views;
1) The share of female inventors in the registered applications (in the KanoonIP portal); and
2) The proportion of female to male inventors.
To evaluate the share of female inventors in the inventions field, those inventions having at least one female inventor were examined separately.
Inventions applications may arise through collaboration between teams of inventors, which may be all-male, all-female, or mixed. The relative proportions of these types of the team are also analyzed in this report as follow:
• The female inventor has invented the invention individually;
• A team of female inventors was involved in the invention; and
• A team of females and males collaborated to invent (at least one female)
To determine the female to male proportion, the "number" of inventors in each case was counted based on their gender. In each case, how many inventors were male, and how many were female? This distinction was made also on yearly basis.
Of the total number of applications registered in the kanoonIP portal (2320 cases), 859 applications have at least one female inventor. With this regard, it was calculated that in 37.01 % of all inventions field in KanoonIP portal, as a statistical population representing Iranian inventions, there is at least one female inventor. Although the share of Iranian female inventors (kanoonIP statistical population) is still far from the desired value (50%), in comparison with a global average of 26.6%, the share of Iranian female inventors is significant. Figure 2, illustrates the share of Iranian females in inventions compared to the worldwide share of females.
Figure 2: Comparison of the share of women in inventions, Iran (Statistical Society of KanoonIP), and Worldwide
The proportion of female inventor in Iran (KanonIP statistical population)
To calculate the ratio of female to male inventors, the number of women and men in each case (invention application) was counted and the numbers were added up to each other. Then the number of female and male inventors calculated on the yearly basis. The proportion of female inventors was obtained by dividing the number achieved in the previous step by the total number of inventors (either on a whole or yearly basis).
The results of these calculations showed that the proportion of female to male inventors in Iran is 24%. In other words, based on the information obtained from the statistical population of KanoonIP, it can be said that for 4 to 5 male inventors, there is one female inventor in Iran.
What is remarkable about this estimation is that despite this low ratio which is far from the preferred value, the average female proportion in Iran is higher than the global average reported in the UKIPO report. According to the UKIPO report, this global average proportion is hardly reached 14%. Figure 3 illustrates the comparison of the proportion of female investors in Iran (statistical population of Kanoon IP) and worldwide.
Figure 3 illustrates the average proportion of female inventors in the world is about 14%, where this ratio in Iran (statistical population of KanoonIP), has reached 24%. In other words, while on average in the world, there is 1 female inventor for every 6 to 7 male inventors, the ratio in Iran (KanoonIP statistical population) shows that for every 4 to 5 male inventors, there is about 1 female inventor.
The UKIPO report also showed that even in the leading countries for filing patents, such as France, the United States, Japan, Germany, China, the percentage of female inventors has not even reached 20% (Figure 4). This female inventor’s ratio on yearly basis with comparison to the leading countries in the field of patents is shown in Figure 4 (the KanoonIP statistic collected from 2011 to 2020).
Figure 4: Comparison of the percentage of female to male inventors on yearly basis, between Iran (Statistical Society of KanoonIP) and the leading countries in the field of patent filing. The chart of KanoonIP information is shown from 2011, the year in which the invention applications were filed in The KanoonIP portal. It should be noted that the reason for not having a steep slope in Iran’s chart is due to the size of the statistical population; to prepare these diagrams, all the files registered in the patent office of those countries are included. In Iran, the results of the study are based on the statistical population of the KanoonIP
As shown in Figure 2, in 37.01% of invention applications has filed in KanoonIP portal, there is at least one female inventor; some questions may raise here as to what percentage of this invention applications, there is a collaboration between male and female inventors as a team? To what extent all the inventors were female or all the inventors are male? At what percentage of these applications, only one female inventor did the invention individually?
To find the answers, all the KanoonIP filed applications (more than 2300 cases) were analyzed based on inventor types (a collaboration between inventors). And the results on yearly basis, are clearly shown in Figure 5.
Figure 5: Inventor types on yearly basis (Statistical population of KanoonIP)
The comparison of the inventor type of Iranian inventions (KanonIP statistical population) and the same indicators from the global average is illustrated in Figure 6. This figure shows that the proportion of female participating in inventions, is higher than the global average in any inventor type; While the global average of women's participation in inventions in the world (and even in developed countries) has hardly reached 24% in recent years, this ratio in Iran (the statistical population of KanoonIP) is significantly higher than the global average. (About 37%).
Figure 6: Comparison of the Inventor types between Iran (Statistical population of KanoonIP) and the world.
Another remarkable point in this comparison is that while the average ratio of female (all-female) teams in the world is very small and less than 0.3% (028%), this ratio in Iran is 2.2%. This indicates a higher team working level of female inventors in Iran than the global average!
In addition, while the average percentage of female in the global scale who individually invent is 3.9% (before 2002 and 4.5% in 2014-2017), this proportion in Iran (statistical population of KanoonIP) is 8.7 %,( from 2011 to 2020)
The share of inventions with teams of male and female inventors in Iran (KanoonIP Statistical population) estimated 26.3% between 2011 and 2020. On a global scale, this figure was 22.56% from 2002 to 2014 and reached 25.56% after planning for gender balance (between 2014 and 2017).
Patentability of the Inventions having Female Inventors
To provide financial support for those inventions intend to be filed in the foreign patent offices, KanoonIP uses a substantive examination to selecting those inventions that have more chance to be granted in the foreign patent offices, and as a result, more commercialization opportunities are provided for Iranian inventors. This examining work is done by teams consisting of expert groups from different fields of technology who have participated in various international examination courses.
To find out the answer to the question of what percentage of cases with female inventors succeed in different stages of approval, another analysis was conducted. The results of this analysis were also remarkable; the inventions having female inventors are in a good position compared to those inventions whose investors are all male.
Figure 7 shows that at various stages of approval, inventions cases having at least one female inventor have a higher chance of success.
Figure 7: The share of invention cases with a female inventor in different stages of the patenting abroad (from KanoonIP approval stage to being granted in a foreign patent office)
Summary and Conclusion
One of the most important purposes of the patent system is to provide incentives to innovation in societies. While the number of innovative people increases in a society, the movement of that society towards innovation-oriented economy increases. Women make up half of the world's population, but do women play a direct role in the development and growth of innovation at the same rate of 50%?
Despite the incensed female participation in education in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields, their share, particularly in innovative activities still remains low and the number of women inventors is not rising as much as it should be.
In order to know the share of Iranian female inventors, the invention applications filled in the KanoonIP portal were analyzed. Iranian inventors who intend to file their invention in foreign patent offices use the KanoonIP portal as in this association, the patentability of all registered inventions are assessed for being supported (financial and technical) to file in the foreign patent offices. Therefore KanoonIP seems to have all the conditions to be considered as a statistical population of Iranian inventions.
The results showed that despite the fact that the percentage of female inventors in Iran is far from the desired value (50%); however, the share of female inventors in this study is significantly higher than the global average and even higher than the statistics of leading countries in the field of patents. While on average in the world, the percentage of women inventors in patent cases is about 14% and in leading countries, this figure does not reach 18%, this ratio in Iran is 24% (KanoonIP statistical population).
This finding shows that Iranian female, despite some limitations, has significant activities in the field of inventions that is considerable and valuable. To broaden women’s activities in the field of intellectual property, the cooperation of men is essential, as opportunities for joint research between men and women are growing. Moreover, by providing better conditions for women to work in the fields of innovation and research, the empowering of this relatively silent portion of the society, will be increased in order to move the country toward an innovative-oriented country.