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Mulheres e Propriedade Intelectual: acelerando inovação e criatividade

Intellectual Property is a constantly growing and relevant market, and women's participation in this sector has been increasing, but still at a slow pace.

According to a report by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), in 2019, women accounted for about 42% of international applications for patents, trademarks and designs. According to recently released data, women are estimated to have been responsible for the invention of only 16.2% of the technologies contained in patent applications filed under the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) in 2022, a higher percentage than the 14.4% recorded in 2018.

WIPO has recorded a growth of only 1.8% in the representation of women in patent applications under the Patent Cooperation Treaty between the years 2018 and 2022. At current rates, gender parity in the use of the PCT will not be achieved until 2064.

In fact, there is still a gender disparity in the Intellectual Property market. According to the observatory held by the United Nations on International Women's Day in March 2023¹, women are still underrepresented in leadership positions, such as directors or partners of law firms specializing in Intellectual Property, and also in careers focused on science, technology, engineering and mathematics, known worldwide as STEM. In addition, the average remuneration for women in leadership positions is lower than for men.

Exemplifying the aforementioned theme, globally, women hold only 2 in 10 science, engineering, IT and communication jobs. In the top 20 global technology companies, women represent 33% of the workforce, but hold only one in four leadership positions, according to 2022 data. Women inventors represent only 16.5% of the inventors listed in international patent applications worldwide.

When we fail to use the talents of men and women equally, we are collectively giving up a vast wellspring of ingenuity and creativity that could provide the resources we need to drive business growth, boost economic performance and provide better answers to the global challenges we face.

The contributions and benefits of gender equity are clear in all areas of market activity, ensuring greater creativity, problem solving and driving teams and companies forward.

According to UN Women's "Progress on Gender Sustainable Development Goals 2022" report², women's exclusion from the digital world has wiped $1 trillion off the gross domestic product of low- and middle-income countries over the past decade - a loss that will grow to $1.5 trillion by 2025 if we do not make an investment in more assertive actions. Reversing this trend will require tackling a number of challenges, as outlined below.

According to the World Economic Forum, by 2022 the global gender gap stands at 68.1%, at the current rate of progress it is estimated that it will take another 132 years to reach full gender parity.

Obstacles to female participation in the areas of innovation and intellectual property

Women face numerous challenges that prevent many of them from fully realizing their innovative and creative potential.

It can also be said that these challenges are long-standing as, for centuries, women have been prevented from exercising their rights as an important part of society, being deprived of education, voting and participation as a key player in socio-economic development.

Women still suffer discrimination because of:

  • Shortage of access to education and training opportunities in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM);

  • Unequal distribution of domestic responsibilities, which continue to be disproportionately carried out by women;

  • Prevalence of stereotypes, discrimination and prejudices in the workplace, as well as in the formulation of policies and practices;

  • Absence of training opportunities in the areas of innovation and intellectual property;

  • Deficiency of mentoring opportunities in the areas of intellectual property and entrepreneurial activities;

  • Domestic violence as well as online violence, which affects about 38% of women, according to a recent study conducted in 51 countries.

Opportunities to rebalance the scales

It is important to highlight that gender equity brings benefits not only for women, but also for companies and the market in general. Numerous studies show that companies with greater gender diversity tend to have better financial results and more innovation. Furthermore, the inclusion of women in leadership positions brings unique perspectives and a distinctive approach to problem solving, which can lead to better decisions and more effective results.

Fostering discussion on women's participation in the Intellectual Property market is key to building a more inclusive and equitable environment. This includes creating policies and programs to promote gender equality, as well as implementing measures to ensure women's representation in all areas of the Intellectual Property market.

Among such measures, we can mention others that will depend mostly on the private initiative, such as, for instance, the "pro bono" practice, involving, therefore, on a free and voluntary basis, the provision of legal services in favour of social non-profit institutions, with the purpose of supporting women's participation in the intellectual property and innovation ecosystems.

In addition, World Intellectual Property Day 2023 provides a unique opportunity for us to celebrate the work of talented female inventors, creators and entrepreneurs from around the world and to:

  • Women who wish to be inventors, creators and entrepreneurs discover how intellectual property rights can help them realize their business goals.

  • People committed to change in the public and private sectors and in the academy collaborate to promote diversity and inclusion within the innovation and intellectual property systems by sharing data and best practices, among other initiatives. By working together, we can more quickly achieve gender equality across the labor market as well as in areas related to intellectual property.

  • Each of us can find a way to help promote gender equality and inclusion. To do so we can, for example:

  • Introduce knowledge and opportunities in STEM fields to girls and young women;

  • Advocate for the adoption of new policies and practices that support women's participation in intellectual property and innovation ecosystems;

  • Work with colleagues to promote diversity and inclusion practices in our workplaces; or

  • Form alliances and coalitions to launch initiatives to raise awareness about the importance of pursuing gender parity to accelerate innovation and creativity for the benefit of all.

In summary, women's participation in the Intellectual Property market has increased, but there is still much to be done to ensure gender equity in this area. Including women in leadership positions and promoting gender equality brings benefits not only to women, but also to companies and society as a whole. Not only the public sector, through the adoption of inclusion policies, but also the private sector, through the most diverse tools, such as those mentioned above, having a crucial role in gender parity.


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