Diversity in STEM and Patent Inventorship
Inequality among innovators is a substantial social problem, and the gender gap in patenting is worse than in scientific publication or for the STEM workforce more broadly. One potential explanation is unconscious bias in attribution—women may be more likely to be improperly omitted from patent inventor lists. Another potential explanation is that the legal standard for patent inventorship is less friendly to scientists lower on the status hierarchy—so if women are more likely to be technicians than lab heads, they are less likely to meet the patent inventorship standard (contributing to “conception” of the invention) even if their work clearly merits authorship on a corresponding paper. A third possibility is that women are less likely to view their ideas as patentable and pursue patent protection, such as by disclosing their ideas to their company’s patent office. We’re working with a company that obtains about 200 granted US patents per year and receives about 200 internal invention disclosures per month, and they are interested in encouraging more employees to submit ideas and increasing innovator diversity within the firm. We are interested in helping them use randomization to test whether changes to their invention disclosure process achieve these goals.