Nicola Serle has published a piece on intellectual property and gender. See http://ipkitten.blogspot.co.il/2013/01/intellectual-property-and-gender.html
The gender of an inventor is not generally recorded but the name is, and since most names are very good indicators of gender, it is undeniable that only a very small percentage of inventors are female.
Discussions on this topic often mention Hedy Lamarr, the actress who appeared in Ecstacy and then played Delilah in Cecile B. De Mille’s 1949 classic. She was the inventor of US Patent 2,292,387 titled Secret Communication System which relates to a technique for frequency band skipping that was intended for controlling torpedoes and underlies CDMA and other modern communication techniques. Lamarr certainly proves that beauty and brains are not mutually exclusive, but she is still an exception that proves the rule.
WIPO used to have a page on Women Inventors on their website, and because of a lack of material, wrote about Marie Curie. Now Ms Curie was a great researcher and thoroughly deserved her two Nobel prizes, for Physics and Chemistry. Nevertheless, she made discoveries in radioactivity, she wasn’t an inventor.
The cost of patenting may discriminate against those with lower income and this includes women, but most patents are filed by universities and corporations and women inventors are still rare. I suspect that if a married female inventor was bankrolled by her husband, she would still appear as the inventor or joint inventor.
Most universities having tech transfer capabilities file applications and then look for partners to further commercialization. Women are key players in the Israel tech transfer offices of the universities, but are rarely inventors. I know it is not politically correct, but maybe women and men think differently? Perhaps women are less inventive?
I have an aunt who was brought up in an egalitarian Kibbutz where boys and girls were treated exactly the same. she maintains that if it were left to women, we would still be living in caves. Women would decorate the caves and sweep the floor, since they are genetically programmed to make do and to build homes. Men think differently.
At an event in Bar Ilan university, a lady lecturer, Dr Shlomit Yanitsky-Ravid argued that patent law, by limiting patents to technology, discriminated against women as women are less technologically minded. She suggested allowing patents for inventions in the social sciences.
I am not a fan of affirmative action. See my comments http://blog.ipfactor.co.il/2013/01/02/israel-patent-office-publishes-tender-for-examiners-from-ethnic-minorities/
Regardless of the underlying reasons, I have drafted and prosecuted hundreds of patent applications and female inventors are certainly rarer than their male counterparts.
Where they are part of a team in industry or academia, it appears that they are generally NOT the main driving force behind the patent. One caveat to this – I generally write applications in the physical sciences and engineering. It may be that in life sciences, women are more active in inventing. There appears to be a higher proportion of women researching and teaching in life sciences than in the physical sciences.
Slightly amusingly, one of the very few patents that I have drafted where the inventor was female was US 6,755,051 for “Novel knitted garments and methods of fabrication thereof.” The patent covers an invention of Rachel Israel, then an engineer at Delta Galil Industries, and relates to a novel technology for fabricating knickers. Go figure…