The findings of a National Center for Women and Information Technology (NCWIT) survey on the value of patents suggests that having both men and women on a development team is more likely to create a truly useful invention. The survey examined the prestige and importance of patents awarded for information technology inventions over the past 25 years, measured by the number of subsequent patents that cite a patent, and found that inventions developed by mixed-gender teams received 42 percent more citations than single-gender patents.
“Our data show that diversity of thought matters to innovation,” says NCWIT chief executive Lucinda Sanders. “We can say involving women is important because women are half the population and have good ideas, but our study shows the impact for companies.”
The number of women named in patents for information technology has increased since the 1980s, but is still only a small portion. In 1980, women accounted for 1.7 percent of information technology patents, which increased to 6.1 percent by 2005. Women accounted for 10.9 percent of all patents in 2002, and hold more patents in computer software than any other technology category.
The survey found that some technology companies have no patents involving women, while other companies obtained as much as 70 percent of their patents from mixed-gender development teams. The importance of female participation in the development process only highlights the importance of strengthening the dwindling numbers of women choosing to earn degrees in computer science, which decreased by 70 percent between 2000 and 2005.