The Gender Gap in Inventors in the Biomedical Field Impacts the Gender Focus of What Is Invented

A new study by scholars at Harvard Business School, the University of Navarra in Barcelona, and McGill University in Montreal, finds that although fewer women engage in commercial patenting in the biomedical field compared with men, their patents are more likely to focus on women’s health.

The authors analyzed all U.S. biomedical patents filed from 1976 through 2010. They found that 30 years ago, women held about one of every 20 new patents in the biomedical fields, compared to one in six today.

The authors found that patents with all-female inventor teams were 35 percent more likely than all-male teams to focus on women’s health. This effect held over the entire time span of the study and across research areas. The authors also discovered that female researchers are more likely to discover female-focused ideas.

The authors conclude that who benefits from innovation depends on who gets to invent. They state that “our calculations suggest that had male and female inventors been equally represented over this period, there would have been an additional 6,500 more female-focused inventions.”

The full study, “Who Do We Invent For? Patents by Women Focus More on Women’s Health, but Few Women Get to Invent,” was published in Science. It may be accessed here.

Filed Under: Gender GapResearch/Study

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