Issue Date: August 7, 2006
Gender affects patenting behavior
Women faculty members in the life sciences patent at about 40% of the rate of their male counterparts, according to Harvard Business School visiting professor Toby E. Stuart and colleagues (Science 2006, 313, 665). The authors analyzed life scientists who earned Ph.D.s between 1967 and 1995. They found no evidence that women do less important research. Rather, the women were hampered by having fewer contacts in industry than men. As a result, the authors say, women "found it time-consuming to gauge whether an idea was commercially relevant." Female scientists were also more concerned that pursuing commercial opportunities could hurt their academic careers. On the other hand, they were more likely than men to be encouraged to patent by coauthors on their research papers, who were often male and drove the patenting process forward. Formal institutional backing was also particularly important for women. According to the study, the gender gap in patenting behavior is shrinking, with younger female faculty behaving more like their male colleagues.
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