Women are a necessity for invention


UK women inventors still thin on the ground, warns Prospect

Women inventors in science, technology, engineering and mathematics industries are still massively under-represented in the workforce, according to new research from the Intellectual Property Office

Analysis of the classifications applied to each patent application also shows that the highest proportion of female inventors are in stereotypical areas such as brassieres, corsets and other clothing, cosmetics, furniture and food.

The lowest proportion are in areas such as weapons, engines and tools.

Prospect deputy general secretary Sue Ferns said: “Until now, much of the statistical research relied on ‘inputs’, such as the number of women employed in any industry. The IPO report is one of few to provide data on the ‘outputs’ or work undertaken by those women.

“The world of patenting remains male-dominated. Even in 2015 there is a clear gender disparity with 88% of all GB patent applications coming from teams of all-male inventors."

Prospect, the union for professionals, managers and specialists is using World Intellectual Property Day (26 April) to highlight the report and demonstrate that while much has been achieved in reaching gender equality in STEM industries, there is still much to do.

The report, Gender profiles in UK patenting – an analysis of female inventorship found that:

  • only 8% of inventors named on Great British patent applications were women, although this has doubled since the 1980s
  • further analysis, based on GB patent applications filed between 2000 and 2015 found that British inventors account for 40% of the applications listed
  • chemistry, biotechnology and pharmaceuticals were the STEM industries with the highest proportion of female inventors seeking GB patents, according to analysis based on the World Intellectual Property Organisation's international patent classification.

"If the UK is to find the 1.82 million new engineers that it needs by 2022, more women need to not only qualify, but work in STEM industries. We need all of the talent pool,” added Ferns.

Prospect has drawn up guidance for employers on recruiting, promoting and keeping women in STEM roles, in collaboration with the Institution of Engineering and Technology. It includes advice on nurturing talent within an organisation and combating unconscious bias.


Notes to editors

The IPO report used a combination of two methodologies to marry the inferred gender of inventors with names stored on the IPO patent databases between 1978 and 2015.

World Intellectual Property Day was established by the World Intellectual Property Organization in 2000 to "raise awareness of how patents, copyright, trademarks and designs impact on daily life" and "to celebrate creativity, and the contribution made by creators and innovators to the development of societies across the globe".

April 26 was chosen for World Intellectual Property Day because it coincides with the date on which the convention establishing the World Intellectual Property Organization came into force in 1970.


For more information contact:

Sue Ferns

020 7902 6639 (w)

07803 898708 (m)



Katherine Beirne

020 7902 6625 (w)

07753 933174 (m)