October 19, 2023
According to a recent study by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), women constitute 13% of inventors in patent applications filed globally between 1999 and 2020.
The report, The Global Gender Gap in Innovation and Creativity: An International Comparison of the Gender Gap in Global Patenting over Two Decades, showed that if the female participation rate continues to grow at the same pace, it is estimated that gender parity will not be achieved until 2061—a staggering 38 years from now.
In Brazil, the inequality of gender within the realm of innovation is a pressing issue that cannot be overlooked. In 2022, the Brazilian Patent and Trademark Office (INPI) released a report addressing the matter of diversity in IP, Relatório de Diversidade, Inclusão e Equidade em PI.
Furthermore, the federal government introduced in early 2023 the ‘Empreendedoras.tech’ programme, aimed at fostering women-led innovative entrepreneurial projects.
However, an unfortunate disconnect exists between the public sector initiatives promoting female participation in technological innovation, and the paltry representation of women in leadership positions within Brazil’s IP system.
Since its inception 53 years ago, the Brazilian Patent and Trademark Office (INPI) has had just one female president: Vanda Regina Teijeira Scartezini, who served for a brief seven-month period from September 14, 1995 to May 7, 1996.
Presently, five of the six major positions within the INPI are held by men, the sole exception being the executive director, nominated earlier this year. This trend persists at the operational unit and general coordinator levels, where men have 18 leadership roles while women have merely nine. In essence, 70% of leadership positions within the INPI are male-dominated.
There is no justification for such a glaring disparity. The INPI’s 2022 diversity report reveals that men make up only 55% of the staff body, highlighting that the issue is not a lack of women but rather a lack of commitment to diversity within the public sector.
Even the Inter-Ministerial Group on Intellectual Property (GIPI), established by the federal government in 2019, is not immune to this reality of gender inequality. Despite being chaired by two women representing the Ministry of Development, Industry, Trade and Services (MDIC), the GIPI consists of 38 men and 26 women, including both titular and substitute members. The disparity becomes even more acute among titular members nominated by the public sector, with nine men and just two women.
The issue is not confined to the executive branch. In the judiciary, 73% of magistrates across all levels adjudicating IP cases are male.
There is somewhat greater balance at the first instance—with six women and nine men designated for specialised state and federal courts (only the Courts of Justice in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, along with the Rio de Janeiro Judicial Subsection, have specialised IP courts).
However, the female presence dwindles at higher echelons of the judicial career. In the second instance, four women sit on the specialised IP panels, in comparison with 16 men.
In São Paulo’s Court of Justice, there isn’t a single female magistrate in the business law chambers. In the Superior Court of Justice, women make up only 20% of the composition of panels competent to adjudicate IP cases.
These statistics are alarming and underscore the systemic gender inequality within the judiciary. As revealed by the 2023 Justice in Numbers report by the National Council of Justice (CNJ), women constitute 40% of the first instance courts, 25% of the second instance, and only 18% at higher levels. The so-called ‘glass ceiling’ is more evident than ever.
The WIPO identifies several factors contributing to this disparity in the innovation chain, including the low presence of women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields, and the challenges in retaining women within private companies and universities. However, these factors cannot justify the gender inequality within Brazil’s public sector in the IP sphere.
Promoting diversity is not merely a matter of social justice; it is a matter of innovation. Several studies across the last two decades have shown that diversity fosters development, including the 2023 report, Direct and Indirect Effects on Firm-level Innovation Across 29 Emerging Economies.
This should be no surprise: individuals with diverse life experiences bring unique perspectives to their teams. A diverse environment is a fertile ground for the cultivation of innovative ideas.
In this regard, no one is better positioned to discuss public policies on diversity, equity, and inclusion, and to propose creative and effective solutions, than women and other underrepresented groups. While it is everyone’s civic responsibility to support this agenda, giving women and other groups a voice is crucial for meaningful progress.
As commendable as public sector initiatives aimed at promoting female participation in technological innovation may be, the importance of representation in leadership positions within the intellectual property system—a critical component of the innovation ecosystem—cannot continue to be underestimated, not only in Brazil but everywhere.
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