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The global gender gap in innovation

17% of international patents are held by women while men have 83% according to latest UN data. With the trends today, gender parity in international patenting will take until 2061, the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) says. Women inventors were included in only 23% of all international applications between 1999 and 2020, while men were involved in 96%, according to WIPO’s report The Global Gender Gap in Innovation and Creativity

Biotechnology, pharmaceuticals and food chemistry had the highest rates of women inventors while far fewer women inventors were noted for mechanical engineering.

In Latin America and the Caribbean women represented 21% of inventors, Asia 17%, North America 15%, Europe 14% while for Africa and Oceania the figure is 13%.

Women remain “significantly underrepresented” in STEM occupations, according to the World Economic Forum’s website and the organisation’s latest Global Gender Gap Report.

Records from the United States Patent and Trademark Office show women have increased their participation in scientific patenting across all areas. Women in electrical engineering are progressing the fastest with women inventors in this sector having doubled from 5% to 10% between 2000 and 2022, a WEF blog post shows.

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Chemistry has the highest share of women inventors, at 18%. Women inventors also represent 16% of design patents. Mechanical engineering has the smallest share of women inventors, at 5% in 2022. 

Meanwhile, women represented only 10.9% of all US patents in 2022, though this share is still up from 7.2% in 2020, WEF reports..

Women account for less than a quarter of jobs globally in science, engineering and technology. And women held only one in three research posts in 2020, a WEF compilation shows.

The World Economic Forum notes that women remain “significantly underrepresented” in STEM occupations, in its Global Gender Gap Report 2023.

This is an important set of well-paid jobs expected to grow in significance and scope in the future, the Forum adds.

“While a growing number of women STEM graduates are entering work in science, technology, engineering and mathematics roles, many of them leave after as little as a year, the report notes. This helps to explain why women currently account for 29.4% of entry-level workers in STEM jobs, but only between 12.4% and 17.8% of high-level leadership roles.”

Last year, women chief executives led a third of the 100 companies invited to join WEF’s Technology Pioneers community, an initiative to promote women in science and technology.

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50% of women in tech end up leaving the force by the age of 35, many of them saying that they found their workplace to be inhospitable or that it lacked female role models, according to a survey made by non-profit organisation Girls Who Code together with consultancy Accenture. 

“Women make up only 26% of all computing roles, and for Black and Latinx women, the statistics are even worse – combined, they make up roughly about 5% of all computing jobs,” Girls Who Code’s  CEO, Tarika Barrett told the World Economic Forum’s Sustainable Development Impact Meetings..

Women in technology, media and telecommunication are the most empowered women driven specifically by the tech industry where women are slightly more empowered than men, according to Women in Work Index and the Global Empowerment Index published by consultancy PwC.

Women working in the financial services and energy, utilities and resources sectors are the second and third most empowered, but men are significantly more empowered than women in financial services.

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