15.08.2023 - Innovation

Latvia has the highest number of female inventors in Europe

Latvia has the highest proportion of female inventors among member states of the European Patent Office: 30.6%. Out of all patent applications by European inventors, just 13.2% are submitted by women. The proportion of female inventors in Europe is lower than in South Korea (28.3%), China (26.8%) and the United States (15%).

Labs of Latvia presents a series of articles on women in science. The first articles in this series explored the statistics on how many women work in science in Latvia and how the high figures could be explained, as well as the figures on how many people in Latvia have a PhD. Meanwhile, the next articles will explore how many inventors Latvia has and the role played by popularising science.

There is also a high proportion of female inventors in Portugal (26.8%), Croatia (25.8%), Spain (23.2%) and Lithuania (21.4%), according to the study Women’s Participation in Inventive Activity. Meanwhile, figures are lowest in Germany (10.0%), Luxembourg (10.0%), Liechtenstein (9.6%) and Austria (8.0%), reports Labs of Latvia.

For the first time, the European Patent Office has summarised and analysed data on female participation in inventions patented in Europe between 2010 and 2021. Women’s contributions to science and technology have increased over the past decades, however, an equal balance with male contributions has not yet been reached, according to the study.

“Female involvement in science and innovation is still a serious problem in Europe and a significant factor in strengthening our competitiveness and our sustainable development,” previously stated European Patent Office President António Campinos.

Historic and economic factors

Ella Pētermane, PR specialist at the Development and International Cooperation Department of the Latvian Patent Office, concedes that the reason for such a high proportion of female inventors compared with Europe could be explained by both the historic and economic factors which dominate when men and women choose their future profession. For example, women may choose to go into teaching or accounting, which, like a career in science, require less physical strength.

“It could be that women choose more intellectual careers, remaining longer in scientific careers, while men look for opportunities to earn more. Therefore the 30% of female inventors may simply be the result of various coincidences and other circumstances,” she surmises.

At the same time, it is clear that the proportion of women in science depends on the field. In other words, historically there have been fields which have developed a reputation as being more male or female. According to figures from the Ministry of Education and Science, the fewest number of female scientists work in engineering. Natural sciences are balanced, while the proportion of women in medical science is 60%, and 70% in social sciences and humanities.

Willing to ask for help

“One hypothesis would be that women are more willing to seek help, for example by attending courses and using various business development programmes, often turning their hobby into a business and patenting a process or product. Although I haven’t seen any figures from, for example, the Investment and Development Agency of Latvia’s (LIAA) support programmes for startups, it could be that they are attended more by women who then go on to use the knowledge and skills they gain at these events,” suggests Antra Boča, head of the Association of Latvian Young Scientists.

If, for example, the LIAA programmes are attended by more women, encouraging them further to register patents and found startups, Boča believes that, in this case, these programmes should certainly be continued.

LIAA Director Kaspars Rožkalns: “According to Eurostat figures, Latvia is the only country in the EU where a majority of leading job roles — 53% — are filled by women. When supporting entrepreneurs, LIAA does not specifically categorise business owners by gender. However, we have noticed that the proportion of women is increasing, including in technology companies. According to startup association Startin, figures for 2022 show that 23% of the 366 recognised startups had at least one female founder, and 7% had only female founders. Riga TechGirls and their initiative with Google to offer free training has also given a significant boost to female involvement in technology companies. We have noticed that events aimed at startups are attended equally actively by women and men. The gender balance at specific startup events, however, may differ if the event is aimed at various specialised topics.”

Author: Anda Asere (www.labsoflatvia.com)
Photo: Shutterstock

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