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UK’s innovative economy at risk as it lags behind the rest of the world in the number of patents filed by women says WISE

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Research by WISE, released at their annual conference today, estimates that only 9% of patents filed in the UK are by women, compared to a global average of 30%.

9 May 2018

WISE is calling for a paradigm shift in attitudes to women in science, engineering and technology to ensure that women are part of the innovation landscape required in the UK.

Helen Wollaston, WISE Chief Executive Officer, says: “The figures for female patents in the UK is shockingly low. As it stands, it doesn’t bode very well for the Government’s ambition to make the UK the most innovative economy in the world that we are so far behind other countries.”

The research has revealed small but positive changes at a corporate level with a 9% increase in the number of patents filed by women put forward by publicly listed companies; 30% in 2016 compared to 21% in 2012. In addition, the IPO recently revealed that women’s participation has risen 500% since 1975.

Helen adds: “This growth is a glimmer of light. We need more companies to adopt best practice to create a truly gender balanced innovative landscape for the UK. There are many aspects to this from ensuring we have role models for girls to see women inventing things to changing the language used in recruitment.”

To help address these issues, WISE is advising companies on the ten simple steps they can take including its People Like Me resource to help companies inspire girls to choose science, technology, engineering and maths at 16 and beyond.

Helen explains: “In a survey last year, the only woman inventor people could name was Marie Curie, who discovered radium and polonium over 100 years ago. Where are today’s Marie Curies? We need to change this and so we are asking female entrepreneurs to step forward and volunteer to act as a role model with our People Like Me initiative.”

WISE is also encouraging companies to look closely at their recruitment strategies and the language they use in adverts and job descriptions which can discourage women from applying.

“We can use the language of innovation to generate excitement about STEM,” says Helen. “Companies need to think differently about the kind of person they really need and develop a proactive strategy to build a positive brand reputation.”

WISE’s top tips to attract women who have transferrable skills and who could easily learn the technical requirements are:

  • Talk about innovation in the job brief and give examples
  • Don’t limit your potential talent pool by narrowing down the technical requirements
  • Don’t use acronyms

Helen concludes: “As we’ve seen this year with the gender pay gap reporting, gender bias can run very deep. We believe that it doesn’t need to be like this; companies can act to change the situation. We know that successful innovative companies want women in their leadership and in their technology and engineering teams and to do this they need to put in place programmes to recruit, encourage and support them.”

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