Posted on July 25, 2018

Black and Hispanic Women Are Less Likely to Get Patents Than Whites

Mehr Nadeem, Bloomberg, July 24, 2018

Women of color, particularly black and Hispanic women, are less likely to obtain U.S. patent rights than white women and men, even as they are leading in the growth of new female-owned businesses over the last two decades, according to a new study.

{snip} Overall, less than 19 percent of patents issued by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office had a female inventor listed, according to the most recent data, compiled in 2015.

The report found that “despite being less likely to hold intellectual property rights than men, women-owned businesses still report actively engaging in innovative activities and generally do so at rates at least as high as men-owned business.”

Women are increasingly likely to own their own businesses and women of color are playing their part in accelerating entrepreneurial activity. {snip}

Yet the issue of the patent gap is “most severe for the minority groups, especially African- Americans and Hispanic women,” said Jeanne Curtis, director of the Cardozo/Google Project for Patent Diversity, a program financed in part by by Alphabet Inc.’s Google that is dedicated to increasing the number of patents issued to women and minorities.


The report also shows that there is a link between patents and the success of a business. The under-representation of women is therefore “troubling because their limited access to that process holds them back, to some extent, from realizing their full potential,” Milli said.

Although women’s representation in business has increased, it has been unequal, and they continue to be in the minority in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, collectively known as STEM. Those fields tend to result in more patents, so the smaller role of women in STEM-related industries has historically been a major factor in the patent gap.

While women account for nearly half of the American workforce, they represent only 29 percent of the STEM workforce. Less than five percent of white women, 2.8 percent of black women and 2.3 percent of American Indian women are employed in STEM.

Women’s historical exclusion from these fields is rooted in a number of factors. {snip}


For instance, she created an Intellectual Property patch for the Girl Scouts to inspire innovation among its members, and provide an alternative from the “first-aid and sewing patches that I remember.”

Even women who have established themselves in STEM careers face significant barriers to obtaining a patent. With women on average earning 80.5 cents for every dollar earned by a man, they have less access to capital when it comes to starting their own businesses. Furthermore, African-American women and Hispanic women earn 67 and 62 cents to every dollar earned by a white man, according to the Institute of Women’s Policy Research.

Bias against women also plays its part in preventing women from acquiring funding and capital. {snip}

A diverse and inclusive ecosystem is increasingly important in today’s market. {snip}

Tech companies, reliant on an environment of aggressive innovation, are starting to take notice of the patent gap. In February, Google partnered with Cardozo Law School at Yeshiva University in New York to initiate a collaborative project designed to increase the number of U.S. patents issued to women and minorities.

The program aims to narrow the patent gap by providing free legal services and resources to under-represented groups to educate innovators about patent protection.