Unleashing the Potential of Women Innovators and Celebrating the “Can Do” Attitude
Dr Amira Kaddour
Each year, the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) celebrates World Intellectual Property Day on 26 April. This year, the theme is “Women and IP: Accelerating Innovation and Creativity,” which calls upon the international community to reflect and take action in supporting women in intellectual property (IP) and reducing inequalities they have faced in the sector. In this blog, Includovate celebrates the “can do” attitude of women inventors, creators, and entrepreneurs around the world and their ground-breaking work. Women play an important role in innovation by bringing diverse perspectives and experiences to the design and development of new products, services, and technologies. According to the World Intellectual Property Organization, we are currently targeted to reach gender equality in innovation and IP protection by 2058, this means having equal opportunities to innovate, invent and transfer technology while recognising the differences between women and men in their creative process . This is a long way off. In low-income countries, 2020 statistics reveal that only 16.5 percent of inventors named in international patent applications were women, suggesting that closing the gender technology gap is even further away.
Innovation as a Past, Present and Future Need
In today’s fiercely competitive business environment, innovation is crucial for organisations to sustain their competitive advantage over their rivals (Forbes, 2017). Companies that regularly innovate are better equipped to stay ahead of the curve and meet changing market demands, thereby enabling them to maintain their positions in the market. Moreover, innovation plays a critical role in the green transition and digital transformations that are necessary for a sustainable and prosperous future. Assessing the need for innovation can be analysed through long wave cycles that have shaped and will shape our lifestyle. Long wave cycles, also known as Kondratieff cycles, are economic cycles proposed by the economist Nikolai Kondratieff in the 1920s. According to him, these cycles occur over a period of 50–60 years, and consist of alternating periods of growth and decline in the economy. The sixth wave of the Kondratieff cycle is often associated with the emergence of new technologies such as artificial intelligence, blockchain, Internet of Things, and a clear need to rethink the future toward sustainability. These innovations are expected to revolutionise industries and create new ones, leading to a new system of life that is sustainable and more inclusive (Lucas and al, 2013) (see Figure 1.). These new economic models and consequential inclusive societies is not possible without the participation of women.
Figure 1. K-cycles and place of innovation
We can’t discuss inclusive innovation without speaking about technology transfer. Technology transfer is the process of moving scientific or technological knowledge and discoveries from the laboratory or research setting to the commercial market or society at large. This process involves transferring knowledge, skills, or technologies from one entity to another for development and commercialisation. Technology transfer involves several key steps. First, there is the identification of a scientific solution or technology with commercial potential. This discovery or technology can be a new product, service, or process that can benefit society or the economy. Once a discovery or technology is identified, the next step is to protect the IP rights associated with it. This is typically done through patents or other forms of legal protection. These protections help to ensure that the inventor or organisation that owns the technology can benefit from its commercialisation. The technology transfer process also involves the development and testing of the technology to ensure that it is ready for commercial use. This may involve additional research, development, and testing to ensure that the technology is safe, effective, and commercially viable. Studies have shown that having diversity of patent holders can lead to a wider range of solutions to various human challenges and can result in more gender-inclusive product development (Cultura 2019).
Unleashing the Potential of Women and Celebrating the “Can Do” Attitude
Diversity and international collaboration have been found to increase inventive output. Research from the National Center for Women and Information Technology in the United States has shown that IT patents with mixed-sex teams are cited more frequently in later patent applications compared to those with single-sex teams. This suggests that greater diversity in research teams may lead to the development of more successful and useful patents toward inclusion (Mili et al, 2016). Thus, recognising women’s contribution as inventors by ensuring they acquire intellectual property (IP) rights is key to gender equality. This brings us back to why The World Intellectual Property Organisation is focusing on Women and IP: Accelerating Innovation and Creativity.
Existing research suggests that women face various challenges in IP-related fields, including limited training and resources in STEM, fewer opportunities in IP law and administration, and a lack of understanding of IP rights and systems. Women may encounter barriers to receiving mentoring and advancement opportunities in IP-sensitive industries. Addressing these obstacles will be essential for promoting gender equity in IP and unlocking the full potential of all individuals to contribute to innovation and creativity (WIPO, 2022). Moreover, to fully understand the gender gap in IP, more data is required.
On this WIPO day, Includovate calls for more investment in studying the causes of the gender gap in intellectual property rights. This must cover the transformation of the culture towards the creation of an ecosystem favoring the involvement of women and support the capacity building of women researchers in IP and technology transfer towards a better valorisation of their innovative potential. Equal representation in research and development teams at the corporate level can be integrated into environmental, social, and governance (ESG) metrics — that truly reflect the understanding and commitment of companies to global challenges related to the sustainable development goals and the creation of smart and inclusive societies.
Suggestions for Further Reading:
About the Author:
Dr Amira Kaddour (she/her) is an academic and financial inclusion specialist with experience in climate finance, modern finance, FinTech, ESG metrics, green economy, sustainable development, education and the culture of the Green Economy.
Includovate is a feminist research incubator that “walks the talk” by employing people from marginalised groups, women and those with disabilities. Includovate is an Ethiopian-Australian social enterprise consisting of a consulting firm and research incubator that designs solutions for gender equality and social inclusion. To know more about Includovate, follow our social media: @includovate, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram.