Who Invents IT? Women’s Participation in Information Technology Patenting (2022 Update)




In 2007 and 2012, the National Center for Women & Information Technology, in partnership with 1790 Analytics, published prior reports on gendered patterns in IT patenting, analyzing records from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The original report examined women’s patenting rates in IT and how these rates evolved over the prior 25 years. It also identified how these rates differ across IT industry sub-categories and across specific organizations. This new edition updates those findings, examining U.S. patent data from 1980-2020. It updates the following questions from the earlier report:

• What are the overall rates of IT patenting for men, women, and mixed-gender collaborations?

• How have these rates changed during the past five years and how does this compare to the findings from the previous report?

• How do patenting rates differ across IT industry subcategories? (e.g. Communications and Telecommunications, Computer Hardware, Computer Software, Semiconductors)

• How do patenting rates differ across specific companies, organizations, and sectors (e.g., government, academic, industry)?

In addressing these questions, this report also looks at how some of the trends over the past five years are similar to or different from the previous study. While a wealth of evidence documents the underrepresentation of women in computing and information technology (IT), most of this evidence currently takes the form of “headcount” metrics — that is, metrics that identify the number or percentage of women in technical occupations or their retention, promotion, and attrition rates. But simply paying attention to how many women are in these occupations tells us very little about what they are actually doing and to what extent they are able to meaningfully contribute to technical innovation. And in fact, we know that even when companies diversify their workforces, members of historically marginalized groups often still face disproportionate difficulty accessing core, creative, technical roles — the place where innovation so often happens.

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