New report shows that research gender gap is closing, but not for women inventors

Lindsay Borthwick
March 18, 2020

The gender gap in research is narrowing, according to a sweeping new report by Elsevier that examined research participation, career progression and perceptions in 43 countries, including Canada, through a gender lens. Despite gains in authorship, the report shows that inequality remains. Women continue to have a smaller research footprint than men, particularly in patent applications, fewer collaborators and shorter careers.

A close look at how research participation, using research authorship and grant awardees, has changed over time in Canada supports some gains: Between 2014 and 2018, 38 percent of research authors in Canada were women, an increase of 10 percent from 20 years ago. (Argentina led the countries examined, where 51 percent of research authors were women, whereas Japan trailed with only 15 percent. European countries averaged 36 percent women researchers.) The report shows there were fewer women awardees than men in all countries, however, Canada had the highest representation of women among awardees, with 50 women per 100 men awarded research grants.

Canada, like other countries, is failing to close the gender innovation gap, according to the report, underscoring the largely untapped entrepreneurial potential of women in research. In all countries studied, women inventors were a tiny minority. All countries showed an increase in the ratio of women to men among inventors in 2012-2016 compared with 1999-2003, with the exception of Canada, where the ratio was stable at approximately 10 women per 100 men. The results echo findings published in 2016 by the Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CPTO) that “Canada has seen little change in the share of inventors who are women in the last 15 years, while the world share continues to grow.” As both the Elsevier and CPTO reports indicate, the difference is not just a pipeline problem, reflecting the smaller proportion in women in technical fields. Understanding and finding ways to increase the number of women inventors is critical to fostering and sustaining innovation in Canada.


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