In honour of this year’s World IP Day theme, Women and IP: Accelerating innovation and creativity , the IP Advisory teams across Deloitte are keen to highlight and promote the various programs and initiatives being used to increase the rate of diversity in innovation. Globally, IP and innovation leaders from a wide range of companies are taking advantage of the quantitative data patents can provide to actively look at their patent filing trends to benchmark the level of diversity amongst their inventors to identify areas where they can have a positive impact.
Innovation and intellectual property are vital for economic development and for maintaining competitiveness. Yet, when looking at global metrics on inventorship, there is a huge disparity in representation across genders and minorities. Based on recent World Intellectual Property Office (WIPO) data, the global average for female inventors in 2022 was 17% . According to The World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2021, looking at the data for female workers by careers in specific professional clusters, they found women represented 37% of workers in the product development cluster  This illustrates that even women who work closely in product development are not fully participating or are not credited in the full end-to-end inventorship process. The companies actively addressing this recognize there is a massive amount of untapped potential for innovation within their business which, if addressed successfully will have a significant impact on overall business value and impact the economic mobility of their employees
Diversity in Innovation (DII) Pledge
Currently, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives that are seeing the most success are programs that look at specific structures and systems which can be addressed . How IP departments manage the inventorship process is a great example of looking into a system that can be scrutinized to uncover potential barriers to participation.
To build more inclusive work systems, some IP departments are taking part in the diversity in innovation (DII) pledge . The pledge was first promoted in 2021 by the United States Intellectual Property Alliance (USIPA) to encourage companies to identify who was and wasn’t participating in the inventorship process using patent data as a benchmark. As of September 2022, more than 50 major corporations across the globe have signed on .
The pledge is a direct way to create accountability for organisations using quantitative data. To participate, each organisation commits to a 3-year, 5-step initiative to identify underrepresented inventors (URIs) within their business, understand what barriers exist, and then create opportunities and promote best practices to support their URIs. Each pledge participant has committed to reporting their outcomes by March 2024.
Increasing the involvement of women and minorities in the patenting process extends beyond harnessing more perspectives to improve the quality of inventions. There is an additional upstream effect for increasing job satisfaction and gaining exposure to more leadership opportunities. According to a 2022 World Economic forum article How female inventors can fix STEM’s gender gap:
“Increasing women’s participation in patenting activity will yield higher job satisfaction and headcount retention among women, which will allow women greater opportunities to rise to leadership positions in STEM, which in turn will help increase their earnings.”
“Therefore, increasing women’s participation in the patent process can help close the wage gender gap.”
Who is driving for change
While IP teams can provide the data on diversity among patent-inventors, and can stimulate invention disclosure activity among female scientists, organisations need to drive diversity from multiple perspectives. For example, hiring policies, innovation reward structure, inventor training, patent- related objectives and allowing time to think and be creative are all elements that can influence the participation of female inventors in the patenting process. Companies who take this topic serious are combining data from multiple sources in their organisation to understand where they are on the scale of diversity in inventorship. It is our experience that a relatively quick analysis of the data available with HR, R&D and the IP team can lead to a few simple steps towards improvement. As always, it is crucial to have open conversations with all groups in the organisation to understand what cultural elements drive participation in the patent process. After such analysis, many organisations will be able to increase innovation value significantly by tapping into underused potential.
By March 2024 there will be more data to share on URIs and the outcomes of various initiatives, in the meantime, many companies are already reporting on their successful outcomes from implementing innovation focused DII programs. For example, Western Digital began their She Invents mentoring program in May 2020 which increased female participation in the patent process by 27% .
Bank of America has successfully increased their rate of patents granted by 19% between 2021 and 2022. The bank stated a key driver for their rate of innovation is their diverse workforce. As of February 2023, 26% of their inventors are women . This is specifically significant for the financial services sector, where women are a strategic and valuable customer base who often feel underrepresented and misunderstood by the banking industry . Increasing the role of innovation by female employees can lead to innovations that better meet the demands of female customers and in turn help improve the gender wealth gap.
From Deloitte’s perspective, we are treating this as an exciting value add opportunity to actively utilise patent data in combination with other data sources to illustrate to our clients where they currently stand when it comes to diversity in their patent portfolios and how this compares to their DEI ambitions. We are seeing more and more engagements coming to us with DEI and ESG targets woven into the desired deliverables, and we believe strongly that the IP teams and departments we work with have an exciting opportunity to be part of this positive change.