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Why Women Inventors Hold So Few Patents

When you think of inventors, do you think of men or women? You should be thinking of both because both men and women have been credited over the years for inventions. But men still far outnumber women inventors, and even fewer women who have accomplished creative inventions hold patents for their work. Why?

The gender patenting gap

According to a recent article in The Atlantic, more than 81 percent of patents include no women. And only 8 percent of patent filings by women list a woman as the primary inventor. A report by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research stated that women will not reach equal footing in the area of patents until 2092. The report referred to the disparity as the "gender patenting gap" which is expected to take another 75 years or more to close.

Two reasons

There are two reasons suggested as to why women are so sparsely represented in patents. One reason is that it has only been in recent years that women have chosen careers in the STEM fields -- science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. This is changing as more women are earning degrees and pursuing careers in STEM fields, but they are still in the minority. According to The National Science Foundation, women still have "relatively low shares in engineering (15%) and computer and mathematical sciences (25%).

The other reason for the low amount of patents among women is because far less women get access to funding. Patents are expensive. The Institute for Women's Policy Research report stated, "Attorney fees for filing an application can range from $5,000 to $16,000 on average, which can pose a substantial barrier for women, since they earn less, on average, than men." Funding for women entrepreneurs is more difficult as well as startup capital. It's a tough situation because investors often look at patents as a reason to invest in a company, and women have a more difficult time getting patents that will make their companies more attractive to investors.