Monday, August 6, 2012

The Growing Influence of Female Inventors must be Recognized


Back in March this year, the National Women's Business Council released data that suggested a significant increase in female inventors in the USA in 2010, and that this number has doubled since 1990. 

The data showed that female inventors accounted for around 18 per cent of the total number of issued patents and trademarks in the country in 2010 - a 35 per cent increase on the previous year. The total number of patents issued to women in 2010 was around 25,000, compared with around 17,000 in 2009. Significantly, the study also found that women received a third of the total number of trademarks awarded to individuals. The NWBC said that, although not all of the patents and trademarks awarded developed into commercial products, they did indicate that more women were becoming entrepreneurs and were choosing starting their own businesses over working for large corporate companies. 
National Women's Business Council spokeswoman, Donna James, confirmed at the time: "An increase in patent ownership may indicate growth in women-owned companies."

Women grow in STEM
Fast forward to July this year and it is apparent that not only is the overall number of patents awarded to women increasing dramatically; it also appears that women are  becoming increasingly prominent in industries that have always been dominated by men. The STEM industries (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths), which see the largest number of patent applications, are now home for many pioneering female inventors, entrepreneurs and leaders. A recent report in technology journal, txctnologist.com, looked into how it was becoming more commonplace for female inventors to make their mark in industries such as computing and technology. Hack Manhattan, which is a "hackerspace" meeting for people interested in collaborating on software programming and hardware writing, has previously consisted mainly of male members. However, the group is seeing an influx of female inventors keen to aquire funding and insurance to share their ideas and achievements. 

Mood-reflecting clothing 
One such member of Hack Manhattan, Crystal Butler, is one of the creators of an innovative new game called Pong. Pong is controlled solely through the power of the mind; users wear a headset that can detect their brains' activities and can apply them to the aims of the game through analyzing computer data. Crystal joined the Hack Manhattan community to not only share ideas, but also to showcase her own invention - wearable electronics. At present, she is working on a  clothing project that lights up and displays different colors and patterns that are dependent on the wearer's mood. Her collection includes an LED studded belt and a T shirt. These are hooked to a headset that detects brainwaves. The waves are then fed to the electronics in the clothing, which adapt colour and patterns accordingly.  

Groups for 'tech girls'
Not only is the number of women in entrepreneurial technology groups increasingly, but the number of groups specifically catering for women is on the rise. Txchnologist lists several organizations that have recently been created as support networks for those female inventors working within the STEM fields. Girls Who Code is one that particularly stands out, as it has recognised the future empowerment of women in the STEM entrepreneurial field. Aimed at encouraging 13 to 17 year old girls to pursue opportunities in engineering and technology, Girls Who Code "has developed a new model for computer science education, pairing intensive instruction in robotics, web design and mobile development with high-touch mentorship led by the industry's top female developers and entrepreneurs."

Creating opportunities for women
While the data released by the National Women's Business Council represents a huge step forward for female inventors, groups such as Girls Who Code recognise that the country has a long way to go in terms of ensuring that female STEM inventors have adequate training and opportunities in place in order to become equal to their male counterparts. The group claims that by 2018, there will be 1.4 million computer science jobs available. However, US universities are expected to only produce enough computing graduates to fill just 29 per cent of these jobs and less than 14% of these computing degrees are awarded to women. The group also claims that technology companies with women on their management teams have a 34% higher return on investment. An increasing number of businesswomen are taking on these board level positions as a result of their management success. Many are then going that step further; women, like men, are seeing their jobs as a personal investment are and buying shares in their organisations. The level of personal investment among women in business is fast growing and the country needs to take note.

The conclusion to draw from these recent studies, figures and statistics is that the influence of women innovators is drastically increasing - perhaps at a faster rate than the country is ready for. The country now has a duty to play catch up with this new generation of female inventors and to ensure that adequate opportunities for them are in place.

Article provided by Eve Pearce - Writer and Journalist
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