Fewer than 1 in 7 inventors in Europe are women


A new study released by the European Patent Office (EPO) finds that 13.2% of inventors in Europe are women. The study, the first of its kind to be published by the EPO, is based on the percentage of women inventors named in all patent applications to the EPO from 1978 until 2019. It highlights that while the women inventor rate in Europe has been rising in recent decades (up from only 2% in the late 1970s to 13.2% in 2019), a strong gender gap remains. The rate of women inventors is also far below the share of women among science and engineering researchers and graduates.

The EPO study aims to provide policymakers and the general public with insights and evidence on gender and patenting in Europe. It provides data on women inventors across different countries, time periods, technology fields and patent applicant profiles.

In the ranking of EPO member states (for the period 2010-19) Latvia (30.6%), Portugal (26.8%), Croatia (25.8%), Spain (23.2%) and Lithuania (21.4%) have the highest proportion of women inventors, while Germany (10.0%), Luxembourg (10.0%), Liechtenstein (9.6%) and Austria (8.0%) have the lowest.

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Chemistry stands out as the technology sector with the highest share of women inventors (22.4% in 2010-19), while mechanical engineering (5.2%) has the lowest share. Within the chemistry sector, patent applications in the areas of biotechnology and pharmaceuticals have rates of over 30% women inventors. 

The report also highlights that patent applications from universities and public research organisations have a significantly larger share of women inventors (19.4% in 2010-19) than those from private business (10.0%).

Coinciding with the launch of the study, the European Patent Office is hosting "Women and IP innovation ", a series of virtual roundtables to discuss the barriers to overcoming the gender gap in inventing and generate debate around the measures to enhance women's contributions to innovation. The panels will gather outstanding women inventors, heads of international patent offices, patent attorneys and representatives of academia.

Panel 1: ‘Building the pipeline: women studying STEM' on 16 November will be moderated by Roberta Romano-Götsch, Chief Sustainability Officer at the EPO, and will count with the participation of the EPO Chief Economist, Yann Ménière, co-author of the EPO's upcoming study.

Panel 2: ‘Getting international: a global solution for women scientists?' will take place on 23 November and will focus on the key international aspect for taking up STEM careers. The discussion will be led by Steve Rowan, EPO Vice President Patent Granting Process.

Panel 3: ‘Teaming up: the key towards gender equality' will be streamed on 30 November, and will be moderated by Nellie Simon, Vice-President of the EPO's Directorate-General Corporate Services.

Further information:

Read the full study

Read the key findings

Read our feature story on Women inventors

Join us at one of our upcoming virtual panel discussions on women in IP