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Europe needs more women inventors.

Europe lags behind Asia and US in share of women inventors

Increasing women’s participation in science and innovation will be a key factor in Europe’s future sustainability and competitiveness, a report from European Patent Office (EPO) shows. In countries like South Korea and China, the share of women inventors is over a quarter, but Europe is lagging, according to the EPO report presented at World Economic Forum’s Growth summit: Jobs and Opportunities for all.

While men continue to dominate patent applications, the share of women inventors has grown steadily since the late 1970s. South Korea and China are leading with more than a quarter of patents filed over the past decade involving women. Across Europe, only 13.2% of patent applications include women, according to the latest report on women’s participation in patent submissions by the EPO.

While Europe has seen a significant rise in its women inventor rate since the late 1970s, the statistics mean that fewer than one in seven European inventors today are women. 

This puts Europe behind not only the two top performers from Asia, but also the US (15%). It is, however, ahead of Japan (9.5%), a report from World Economic Forum says.

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“In’s 2022 ranking of the world’s best women scientists, only two of the top 10 were based in Europe. A further four made the top 20, which was dominated by US-based researchers.”

Europe is far from homogenous when it comes to opportunities for female inventors. There is a gap of 22.6 percentage points between top performing Latvia with 30.6% of patent applications involving women and lowest-performing Austria with 8%.

“Portugal, Croatia, Spain and Lithuania made up the remainder of the top five, with between a fifth and more than a quarter of women inventors. Liechtenstein and Germany joined Austria at the bottom of the list”, World Economic Forum reports.

“Last year, a scientific study revealed that the well-documented gap in the volume of scientific research by the two genders may be down – at least in part – to women not being given credit for their work.” 

“The researchers found that, compared to their male colleagues, women were significantly less likely to be named in articles or patents and “systematically less likely to be recognized”. This happens, they suggest, because women’s work “is often not known, is not appreciated or is ignored”.

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“In its Future of Jobs 2023 Report, the World Economic Forum highlights that women are the most common priority group in diversity, equality and inclusion initiatives. This may help with access for women to STEM education and careers, which the EPO highlights as a prevailing issue. It also points to the need for greater collaboration and teamwork in innovation and for learning from those with a less acute gender gap.”

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