Sifting through some archived Podcasts, I ran across one from Stephen J. Dubner – Freakonomics Radio – The Patent Gap. According to estimates by the National Bureau of Economic Statistics, women represented only 7.5% of filed patents and 5.5% of commercialized granted patents. I have done my share (filing 10 in 2 years) to help make up the patent gap, but ladies…step it up!

Why do so few women file patents? Is it that there are fewer in STEM fields – science, technology, engineering and medicine? The National Bureau of Economic Statistics says that the STEM gap in education only accounts for 7% of the gender difference in patenting. The under-representation of women in these jobs is more to blame. But, what about Industrial/Furniture Design? The NBER found that there is a 40% contribution from gender gap in design and development jobs. The Industrial Design Society of America and other design organizations estimates that around 15-20% of working designers are women, so this seems accurate. Design certainly deserves being added to STEM as a “patent-intensive” field in desperate need of more women.

Girls in STEMDubner postulates that the patent gender gap is more about lack of risk-taking by the women in these fields. He goes so far as to cite studies that suggest that women would take more risks if they were segregated into single sex development groups. There is enough of a struggle to get more women to work in STEM and D&D so this is not likely to happen anytime soon. I am, surprisingly, a proponent of single sex groups for product evaluations or focus group tests, but product design and development needs to be a more co-ed sport.

With broad experience patenting, I have discovered the invention process itself is a more risky proposition, not the patenting part. We have a 95% issuance rate on our patents because obtaining the patent isn’t the hard part. Coming up a with product that should be commercialized is the key. The patent process is capital and time-intensive, so unless you absolutely plan on marketing and selling the product, it is not worth it.

Dubner cites the statistic that bridging the patent gender gap can raise the U.S. GDP by 2.7%. That is the key right there, but not just in the statistics. Our research, design and development experience has shown that by working as a GenderBlend™ team, more innovation occurs, more patents are filed, more products are commercialized and the resulting products sell better because they resonate with women and men. We’re raising our economic value and our clients’ through GenderBlend™ Intentional Invention. How are you going to raise your business value?

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