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How the IP sector is addressing its gender gap — World IP Day 2023

AuthorsGeorgia Close

4 min read

Intellectual Property

How the IP sector is addressing its gender gap World IP Day 2023

World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) statistics have confirmed huge disparities in the use of the IP system by women. With just 16% of inventors named in international patent applications being female, WIPO estimates that gender parity among PCT-listed inventors may not be achieved before 2064. However, moves are underway to accelerate this — here, to mark World IP Day 2023, solicitor and IP specialist Georgia Close explores the schemes, programmes and support networks available to female inventors and IP professionals.


World IP Day 2023

World IP Day has long been a key vehicle to draw attention to trends and issues within the industry. The event was established by WIPO in 2000 to “raise awareness of how patents, copyright, trademarks and designs impact daily life” and to celebrate the creativity of creators and inventors across the globe.

Intellectual property refers to (and is defined by WIPO as) the “creations of the mind, such as inventions; literary and artistic works; designs; and symbols, names and images used in commerce”.

This year’s theme is ‘Women and IP: Accelerating Innovation and Creativity’. Its aim is to celebrate talented women and encourage more use of intellectual property systems as a means of protecting their innovation.

Notably, many national IP offices have rolled out schemes to support women in IP. The UK Intellectual Property Office (UKIPO) is part of an international taskforce established by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) with the aim of improving representation for women in IP through initiatives like its international mentoring scheme.


Inclusion in STEM subjects

Promoting and encouraging the inclusion and presence of women in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) industries — where a significant gender gap remains — will have a natural spill over into IP systems to protect their works and innovations.

Government-funded research by Tech Nation has found that just 16% of UK STEM workers are female and the UKIPO is also working to promote inclusion in STEM subjects.

In turn, this may also increase the number of female patent attorneys, given that the majority of patent attorneys have scientific or engineering backgrounds.


Pro Bono Program, Women Scientists Scheme and InnovateHer

It’s positive to see that other national offices are also making headway. The USPTO’s Pro Bono Program provides free legal assistance to small businesses and inventors, many of which are female-led.

Similarly, the Department of Science and Technology in India has realised that we need to support women that are re-entering the workplace following career breaks and family-related absences. To do so, it has launched the Women Scientists Scheme, which offers grants and fellowships to women following career breaks as an incentive to go after careers in STEM. 800 women have participated in this scheme to date, with 270 of them becoming registered patent agents.

My Brabners colleague and member of the IP team, Hayley Morgan, is working on a similar initiative with InnovateHer and sits on its advisory board. InnovateHer helps to prepare girls for the tech industry.


Creating a landscape where women can excel

From Hedy Lamarr, whose invention of frequency-hopping technology led to her nickname ‘the mother of Wi-Fi’ to Marie Curie, who developed the theory of radioactivity and Ruth Wakefield, who invented the first chocolate chip cookie, it’s easy to celebrate the achievements of female inventors around the globe.

Although we still have a long way to go to narrow the gender gap in IP, progress is being made to encourage and engage more women in the field.

It’s clear that the initiatives already available are helping to create a landscape in which women can obtain the resources that haven’t always been available to them and enable them to excel in the field of IP. Women represent over half of the UK population and it’s imperative that we don’t miss out on such a huge pool of talent.

Despite the national statistics regarding the gender gap in the use of IP systems, 85% of our IP team at Brabners is female. This is something that as a firm and team we are hugely proud of and we hope that this can play a small part in inspiring female inventorship and careers in IP.

To find out more about our IP team and services, get in touch with me at or a member of our wider IP team.

Our IP team will join 7,000 industry leaders in Singapore for INTA's 2023 Annual Meeting between 16 and 20 May. Connect with our experts Colin BellHannah Fawcett and Hayley Morgan to book a meeting ahead of time.

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