Happy World IP Day!
World Intellectual Property Day is celebrated every year on 26 April – the day on which the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Convention came into force in 1970 – and it is a day for increasing general awareness and understanding of IP. This year’s theme is Women and IP: Accelerating Innovation and Creativity.
Women are underrepresented in the world of intellectual property. While we have started to see a shift in recent years, with more and more women getting involved in IP, there is still a lot of work to do. WIPO reports that only 16.2% of all inventors named in international patent applications were women in 2022. While this number is improving year on year, progress remains slow, and it is estimated that gender parity amongst PCT-listed inventors will not be reached until 2064.
In Australia, women’s participation in patent filing is slowly rising. IP Australia’s 2022 IP Report outlined that female inventors made up around 12% of all unique Australian inventors listed on patent applications in Australia in 2016. This is still below the world average, but it is an increase from just 4% in 1980. WIPO data also shows that around 25% of the PCT applications originating in Australia in 2021 list at least one female inventor, a share that has increased from 17% in 2012. The increase over this time does vary between technology areas. The number of female inventors in civil engineering remains steady at around 10% but in the biotechnology space and organic fine chemistry, women’s participation has risen from less than 20% to more than 50%.
One of the reasons for the increase in women’s participation in filing IP is the growing awareness of the importance of diversity in innovation. Studies have shown that diverse teams are more innovative and better able to solve complex problems, which has led to more companies and organizations actively seeking to diversify their teams. Another reason for the increase in women’s participation in the IP system is the increasing number of women working in STEM fields. As more women pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, they are also becoming more involved in the creation of valuable IP.
IP Australia have reported some interesting statistics about the relationship between women working in STEM fields and registered IP. Businesses with registered IP have a notably larger share of women in their STEM workforce, when compared to businesses without IP. Additionally, among businesses with a STEM workforce, greater gender diversity in leadership is associated with greater efficiency in converting research & development (R&D) investment into IP.
At POF, we have a strong commitment to diversity and inclusion and we have been recognized as an Inclusive Employer by the Diversity Council Australia (DCA). We recognise that gender diversity benefits the IP profession, as well as the wider community, and we proudly support initiatives that encourage this. Some initiatives and programs we sponsor are:
- BioMelbourne Network’s Connecting Women lunch
- RACI’s Women in Chemistry Group, and
- SBE Australia’s E3 Program.
While the trends towards gender diversity in IP are promising, true gender parity in the world of IP is a long way off. Companies, organizations, and policymakers must continue to actively promote and support women, while also addressing the systemic barriers that prevent equal representation and participation. On World IP Day 2023, let’s celebrate the progress towards gender diversity in IP so far, while acknowledging the work that still needs to be done. A more inclusive and diverse IP ecosystem will unlock the full potential of innovation and drive greater economic and social progress for us all.