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Lack of women inventors could hurt innovation, US patent office says

The USPTO's new report on women inventors shows that while numbers are on the rise, they're still pretty low overall.

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The USPTO has a new report out on women inventors. 

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More women are filing patents, but they still have a long way to go in terms of representation among inventors, according to a report out Monday from the US Patent and Trademark Office.

The report, titled Progress and Potential: A profile of women inventors on US patents, found that while the share of patents that include at least one woman listed as an inventor rose from 7 percent in the 1980s to 21 percent in 2016, women accounted for only 12 percent of inventors in 2016. 

"Harnessing underexploited talent in these groups would be valuable to spurring innovation and driving growth," reads the report, whose release coincided with the International Day of Women and Girls in Science. It refers to the idea of "lost Einsteins," or people who could have made valuable contributions had they been exposed to "innovation and inventor role models."  

The low percentage of women inventors adds another dimension to the discussion of a lack of women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields

Numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics for 2018 show women hold 25.6 percent of computer and mathematical jobs, and 15.9 percent of architecture and engineering jobs. The numbers tend to be even lower for women of color, studies show. Even though employment numbers for women in STEM jobs have risen, that's not leading to a broad jump in women getting patents, the USPTO found. 

The USPTO did not immediately respond to a request for comment as to why that might be, but the report said there may be factors disproportionately affecting women that are proving to be roadblocks. As an example, the report said women scientists may have more trouble securing funding or might not have access to the same networks men do.

The report also found that women are less likely to be the individual inventor on granted patents and are more likely than men to work on larger mixed-gender teams. 

Solving for XX: The tech industry seeks to overcome outdated ideas about "women in tech."

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