Female Inventors and Inventions

Rembrand Koning (Harvard Business School)
Sampsa Samila (IESE)
John-Paul Ferguson (McGill University)

Abstract: Has the increase in female medical researchers led to more medical advances for women? In this paper, we investigate if the gender of inventors shapes their types of inventions. Using data on the universe of US biomedical patents, we find that patents with women inventors are significantly more likely to focus on female diseases and conditions. Consistent with the idea of women researchers choosing to innovate for women, we find stronger effects when the lead inventor on the patent is a woman. Women-led research teams are 26 percent more likely to focus on female health outcomes. This link between the gender focus of the scientist and the type of invention, in combination with the rise of women inventors, appears to have influenced the direction of innovation over the last four decades. Our findings suggest that the demography of inventors matters not just for who invents but also for what is invented.

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