WIPR Influential Women in IP 2019
Women in STEM
their work, and not necessarily ‘identifying’ their work
with what a TTO would be looking for. If women are
not exposed to TTOs or networks where others are
patenting their work, they don’t learn the ‘language’ of
commercialisation, which provides a further barrier to
engagement because women are more uncomfortable
with asking questions.”
Yet another “glaring” barrier, according to Juhas,
is a lack of time.
“Well-intentioned department chairs and deans
mandate gender equality on committees. These time
commitments are a direct competitor for innovation
activities. The non-negotiable duties of teaching,
grading, grant-writing and leading a research group
leave little discretionary time for exploring new
initiatives,” explains Juhas.
Taking the lead
To combat the discrepancy in tech transfer activity,
Advance and OTM have both implemented femalefocused
Washington’s Women in Innovation and
Technology programme invites women to participate
in commercialisation and provides them with the
toolkit that enables success, says Mercier.
“The invitation is important as it gives women the
chance to identify and say ‘yes’ rather than automatically
presuming there is no place for them,” she says.
At its foundation, the university had no companies
started by women—now it has multiple women
who are faculty entrepreneurs. There has also been
an increase in gender representation of women on
invention disclosures, breaking 50% of disclosures
with female representation last year.
Mercier adds: “Our office has seen an increase in
the number of patents filed with women inventors
as well, reaching 44% of provisional patents with a
women inventor in our last fiscal year.”
Reach for Commercialization, Ohio’s signature
programme, is focused on creating networks of
research-active women who are role models to women
and men across the academic spectrum.
The women who’ve participated in the cohortbased
programme have doubled their invention
However, the problem that still accounts for
the differential, even with all the balancing factors
employed by the programmes, is that women continue
to have to make more work/life tradeoffs than men,
“They still tend to be the ones who run the
household or at least orchestrate the running of the
household, and women tend to be more involved in
caring for elderly relatives,” she says.
Despite these barriers, both institutions are
seeing positive trends and will perhaps become
a blueprint for other offices to follow. If other
institutions begin replicating these programmes,
perhaps, in ten years’ time, the USPTO may have
better news to present. l
If women are not
exposed to TTOs
where others are
work, they don’t
SHUTTERSTOCK / ASDF_MEDIA
such as chemistry and design, rather than in the areas
where mostly men hold patents, such as mechanical
engineering. For Juhas, this means that the power of
role models cannot be overstated, a sentiment echoed
across this publication.
“Women are virtually absent in roles as influencers,
trailblazers and pathfinders at the very highest
echelons of the research enterprise, especially in the
STEM fields. The technology transfer component of
academic research is dominated by men,” says Juhas.
She adds that there’s enormous potential to
expand the research enterprise by increasing the role
of women innovators and positioning them to create
companies, build the workforce and solve society’s
most vexing problems.
Time to engage
It’s important to look further upstream: the first
point of engagement in a university setting is the
submission of an innovation to the technology
transfer office (TTO).
One barrier to engagement in tech transfer
activities is a lack of the social and professional circles/
collaborations that might naturally lead a woman to
the TTO, says Mercier.
She adds: “Another barrier is how women view
Nichole Mercier, Washington
University in St Louis