International Women’s Day – Women in Intellectual Property

Today marks International Women’s Day, and this year’s campaign theme is #PressforProgress. It is no secret that the gender gap is still apparent, with the 2017 Global Gender Gap Report claiming that data shows the gender gap to be widening. In an industry that seems to be predominantly male orientated, where do women stand when it comes to Intellectual Property?

Despite general improvements in gender equality around the world, gender gaps in patenting, in particular, persist. WIPO’s latest data show that just 30.5% of the international patent applications filed included at least one women inventor. Even though it is encouraging that the number of PCT applications with at least one woman inventor has nearly doubled in the past 10 years, absolute gender parity still remains a distant prospect. However, encouragingly, the theme for World Intellectual Property Day – 26th April – resonates with empowering women within the industry: Powering Change: Women in Innovation and Creativity. WIPO stated that the campaign will celebrate ‘the brilliance, ingenuity, curiosity and courage of the women who are driving change in our world and shaping our common future.’ It looks to encourage women and girls in the creative and technical fields and emphasise how IP can support their innovation.

Every day women are coming up with ground-breaking technology ‘from astrophysics to nanotechnology and from medicine to artificial intelligence and robotics’, and ‘re-imagining culture, testing the limits of artistry and creative expression’, it is no question that IP holds a world of opportunity. EDF Energy’s Pretty Curious campaign goes hand in hand with this view, as its objective is to ‘inspire teenage girls to imagine a future where they use STEM – science, technology, engineering and maths – to help make a difference’. As a society, we have the ability to encourage the innovation, creativity and curiosity of women.

But what about the women who work in the industry?

Intellectual Property, in the past, has been a largely a male dominated field, but the seismic shift in attitudes towards women we have seen in society more generally, is also reflected in the IP world. There has been a marked increase in women joining the sector and obtaining senior roles within the industry. In 2016, in an independent report on Gender and Diversity in the Patent and Trade Mark Profession, showed that at 44%, nearly half of the registered trade mark attorneys in UK, were women, with just under 30% of registered patent attorneys being women. These statistics reflect the progress that has been made towards gender parity and the importance of #PressforProgress, not only within the need to support women’s innovation, but also our professional development. It highlights to the importance of instilling in the minds of young women and girls the significance of education and the advances we have made that mean that women now have a place within a wide range of industries that we would not have dreamt of entering 100 years ago.

From my own experience, women are leaving their mark when it comes to IP, and there is an increase of female IP Professionals. On a daily basis, I am communicating with women, from all over the world, on a variety of IP related matters. From foreign patent filings via PCT route, to overcoming office actions and trade mark refusals. As a newcomer to the IP world, I look up to these women, and in particular the women I work with. Their dedication, hard work, and passion for the work they do is something to be celebrated and admired. With offices around the world, us women come from a variety of backgrounds, have had a different route into IP and work in different sectors of IP, but we have one fundamental thing in common. We work in an environment where the achievements of women are celebrated, and our progression and achievement is viewed as a necessity and not secondary to that of men. Not only do the women we work with empower and support each other, but we receive the same recognition and support from our male counterparts. In the run-up World Intellectual Property Day, it is essential that the men and women working in, and that are a part of, Intellectual Property, maintain the notion and act upon the theme of ‘Powering Change: Women in Innovation and Creativity’, and continue to do so.

By Julia Fusi, 2018