Where the Gender Gap Meets Academic Patenting: An Empirical Study
18(2) The Ohio State Technology Law Journal 239 (2022)
62 Pages Posted: 10 May 2022
Date Written: May 6, 2022
The gender gap in academia has long been the focus of public discourse regarding the role of academic institutes in promoting social values. Integrating women into senior academic positions, especially in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) fields, is an essential aspect of promoting women’s advancement in society in general, and it also has significant implications on female entrepreneurial and innovative potential.
In this study, we seek to assess the gender gap in the Israeli academy by examining the nature and extent of women’s participation in transferring knowledge from the academy to the industry. One of the most prominent models for such transfer of knowledge is based on the registration of patents for inventions developed by academic institutes in the course of their activities. Academic patenting is thus a significant component of the professional activities of faculty members worldwide. Yet, female academic patenting has received little attention thus far.
The Israeli academy serves as an important case study for examining female academic patenting because Israel is not only a world leader in scientific research, but it also has an ongoing technology transfer tradition that began in the early 1960's; and because Israel is a small country, it is possible to conduct a comprehensive study, examining all patent applications filed by academic institutes since the State’s establishment in 1948. In this study, we examine the extent to which women participate in patent filing activity in Israeli academic institutes as compared to men. Our comparative examination is anchored in a quantitative analysis of inventors’ names indicated in patent applications filed by academic institutes in Israel. The study then examines the gender of the named inventors when controlling for various other characteristics of patent applications, such as rates of acceptance for registration, fields of research, forward citations, and more.
Our study yielded several key findings. We found that women file patent applications far less than men. Our database included 6825 patent families, out of which 320 applications were filed by women inventors only, 3607 applications were filed by men only, and 2898 applications were filed by mixed inventor groups comprising both male and female inventors. These data alone demonstrate a gender disparity in patenting activity in the Israeli academy. A thorough examination of the gender composition of mixed-group patent applications shows further that women are outnumbered by men in joint applications naming inventors of both genders. The study also found that women's involvement in patenting activity in the academic sector is significantly lower than men’s, considering women’s representation in STEM faculties in Israel. We found that while the share of patent applications filed by men was higher than their representation in academic positions, the share of patent applications filed by women was much lower than their representation in academic positions. For instance, the study found that in the years 2017-2018, women patented at about 35% of the rate at which men patented. Nevertheless, our analysis reveals that applications naming male, female, and mixed-group inventors have comparable acceptance rates, and that there is no meaningful gender-based distinction when it comes to the scientific filed of the invention or forward citations.
The importance of this study is that it reveals that even when it appears that women are successfully engaged in academic activity—i.e., they have been appointed to the senior faculty in STEM fields—there remains a significant gap in terms of the activities that women and men pursue. Moreover, our results suggest that women have not achieved their full potential for invention and knowledge transfer in the STEM fields, resulting in potential economic and social losses to society.
Our findings can serve as a springboard for further in-depth research on various aspects of women’s integration in academia to identify failures in achieving gender equality that may be masked by women’s increasing representation on various faculties. As the results of our study make clear, equality in academia is not merely a question of how many women are academic faculty members, but also of whether female faculty can and do participate in their institution’s patenting and other important research activities at rates similar to that of their male colleagues.
Keywords: Academic Patenting, Gender Gap, Patent Analysis
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