September 12-14, 2021 | Renaissance Dallas Richardson

Moving Beyond Words: Solutions for Closing the Gender Gap

Katharine Wolanyk
Eileen McDermott
Megan Carpenter
Jill Bindler

Moving Beyond Words: Solutions for Closing the Gender Gap

RegisterGloria Steinem wrote Moving Beyond Words: Age, Rage, Sex, Power, Money, Muscles: Breaking Boundaries of Gender in 1994. Steinem was an iconic figure in a movement that began several decades earlier and continues today to close the gender gap and ensure women have equal pay for equal work, among many other issues.

During Virtual CON2020, Hope Shimabuku, Regional Director of the PTO Texas Office, noted that, as of 2017, women made up about 30% of the science and engineering workforce, but only made up about 13% of inventors, which indicated that women inventors are being lost along the pipeline. However, on a positive note, Shimabuku explained that women made up 17.3% of all new inventor-patentees in 2019, which represents an increase at a rate of 4% per year since 2014. Obviously, much remains to be done.

This patent gender gap exists not only for inventors, but in the patent bar as well. According to statistics provided by Dean Megan Carpenter during Virtual CON2020, only about 20% of IP professionals are women. This reality prompted Senators Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Thom Tillis (R-NC) and Chris Coons (D-DE), to in December 2020 send a letter to then USPTO Director Andrei Iancu inquiring about whether qualified women are excluded from membership in the patent bar as the result of systemic bias. The USPTO has since announced changes to the criteria applicable for admission to the patent bar in ways that would streamline the process for both applicants and the Office of Enrollment and Discipline (OED), but changes to include more degrees and training as qualifying for the patent bar is the type of change that will require political leadership at the USPTO and be the result of full notice and comment rule making.

In the intellectual property world, there has been much debate about how the industry should proceed to best address the gender gap issues, although a long-term bottom-up approach that brings more women into STEM fields seems to be a critical piece to the ultimate solution.

This panel of experts—women at the top of their fields in IP—will provide their take on the challenges that they’ve faced and the best ways forward.