The licensing director for WARF says highlighting the diversity of innovators in the startup field could empower more female inventors.

“Mixed-gender inventor teams produce patents with more impact,” Jennifer Gottwald said last week at a luncheon hosted by Madison Women in IP. “Diverse viewpoints can bring together better thoughts and better innovation.”

Between 1977 and 2010, the share of patents with at least one female inventor increased from 2 percent to around 19 percent, according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.

“If we leave things as they are, it’ll be 2080 before we have at least one woman on half of the patent applications,” Gottwald said. “Ninety-six percent of applications have at least one man named on them, so getting women on 50 percent is a good start. But I’m not going to say that’s parity.”

The rate of female inventors is lower than female participation in any of the STEM fields, according to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Not only that, but the United States is ranked 16th for women’s share of patents in academia, according to the World Intellectual Property Organization.

“The U.S. economy could be increased by more patents,” Gottwald said. “If we close the patent gender gap, the U.S. GDP would increase by 2.7 percent. Multiply that by what our GDP is — that’s a lot of money.”

The share of international patent applications with women inventors climbed to around 28 percent in 2015, and the number of female inventors in international applications went from 10,000 in 1995 to just over 80,000 in 2015, according to WIPO.

“Innovation that’s driven to address diverse needs opens up markets and opportunities,” Gottwald said. “If you’re looking at a much larger market, then you should be getting those people in that market involved in innovation.”

Gottwald’s presentation included several calls to action to help diversify inventorship. These included: creating networks of women inventors; proactively identifying women as inventors; making the patenting process more transparent and predictable; as well as highlighting the diversity of innovators and the non-financial benefits of patenting.

“We’re making sure that when we’re putting on events we have representation from different groups on speaking panels,” Gottwald said. “At WARF, we want all the inventions we can get out of the university, some of them are going to result in important products for humankind and bring money back to support more research at the university.”

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