It is well reported that women face many hurdles in achieving equality in the workplace. Intellectual property is one area where women are still generally under-represented. A study from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research published in 2016 concluded that women are greatly under-represented as patent holders. For example, in 2010, only 18.8% of all patents included at least one woman inventor. While the representation of women as patent holders varies greatly among patent classes, only one class (chemistry: natural resins or derivatives) includes at least 50% of all patents having at least one female inventor.
While such a disparity between male and female inventors is likely caused by under-representation of women in STEM fields, other factors may be at play also. A recent study looked at the number of interruptions that occur during the proceedings of the Supreme Court. The study looked at interruptions between justices and also advocates arguing in front of the justices. The study found that women were more likely than men to be interrupted, and that men were more likely to interrupt than women.
This disparity in male-female interactions at the Supreme Court highlights the hurdles women may face in creating and securing intellectual property rights for their ideas. For example, if women are routinely interrupted during brainstorming sessions, their ideas may not be heard. While some women may adapt the way they interact with their coworkers to be sure they are heard (as suggested in the Supreme Court study), it is plausible many women may choose to not speak up at all, or to pursue other career paths, further limiting their success at gaining intellectual property rights.
What are your experiences? Are you a female inventor? Have you experienced challenges in having your ideas be heard or acknowledged? Do you think women are under-represented in your field?