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World IP Day 2023: Women and Intellectual Property


World Intellectual Property (IP) Day celebrates inventors and creators around the world and explores how IP helps drive technological innovation. This year, its theme is about women inventors, creators, and entrepreneurs - and their groundbreaking work. We take this opportunity to celebrate all talented women in the science and technology space, and to explore what more we can do to capitalise on the ingenuity and creativity of women and girls worldwide.

World IP Day artwork representing innovative women

Many names immediately come to mind when we think of inspirational women pioneers, including historic figures such as Ada Lovelace (mathematician and writer), Marie Curie (double Nobel Prize winning physicist and chemist) and Hollywood movie star Hedy Lamarr (originally Hedwig Kiesler – inventor of frequency hopping and spread-spectrum wireless communications techniques). Contemporary heroes include Mae Jemison (the first African-American woman to go into space in 1992), Melani Perkins (Tech entrepreneur, CEO and co-founder of Canva graphic design platform) and Professor Dame Sarah Gilbert (lead development of the Oxford AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine in 2020).

Women across the globe have shaped our world and continue to do so through their imagination, ingenuity and hard work. However, this is often in the face of significant challenges in accessing the knowledge, skills, resources and support they need to thrive.

Research conducted by the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) and the European Patent Office (EPO) indicates this is particularly true in respect of women’s use of IP services. They suggest that in addition to the lack of IP knowledge, women often lack access to networks, mentors, sponsors and role models, face difficulties in securing financial resources and encounter negative bias often whilst being expected to undertake care responsibilities within their families.

Despite women making up nearly half of the global population, these barriers mean that too few women are benefitting from the IP system.

Indeed, the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) estimate that only around 16 percent of patent applications filed through WIPO's Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) come from women, leaving countless brilliant minds and their ideas untapped.

Studies conducted by the European Patent Office (EPO) present a similar picture: an analysis of women’s participation in patenting activity across different countries, time periods, technology fields and patent applicant profiles suggested that while women’s contributions to science and technology have been increasing in recent decades there is still more to do to reach gender parity among patent inventors.

In the face of such findings, WIPO has committed itself to providing the support and resources necessary to help women protect and enhance the value of their work through use of the IP system. In addition, multiple national IP offices around the globe are rolling out initiatives aimed at supporting women in their IP journey.

This is a commitment QinetiQ shares. As a world-leading technology company, we recognise the issues faced by women innovators and we are committed to supporting them through QinetiQ’s Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) policy and our STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Maths) outreach programme. The broader QinetiQ community embraces initiatives such as the Women’s Engineering Society (WES), Women In Engineering & Science (WISE), International Women’s Day, International Women In Engineering Day (INWED), CyberFirst Girls Competition (NCSC) and Bring Your Child To Work days.

Now is the time for us all to act to support women innovators, to strengthen IP and innovation ecosystems and thereby drive economic growth for the benefit of everyone. I encourage you all to join the conversation around the gender gap in IP and to discuss the issues that affect your own communities. Further steps might include finding a mentor to guide and inspire you on your innovation journey, building your network or empowering yourself through IP education.

If you would like to hear personal perspectives and experiences around this year’s World IP Day theme from some of QinetiQ‘s leading women inventors then please listen to our podcast hosted by QinetiQ’s Group Head of Legal Services, Claire Wilson (click here and choose your preferred podcast streaming channel).