Leading Change: Female Pioneers in Patenting and Inventing

Session organizer/s: Youssouf Merouani

Do women patent differently - the patent system of the GDR

Session: 5

Authors: Finni Jo Erdmann

Co-authors: NA

Abstract: In its legacy the GDR is often “praised” for its progress in terms of its policies to promote women, especially in professional life. This research investigates whether this progress was sustainable for these women. Both the patent-system of the GDR in its whole, and the occurrence and characteristics of female inventorship in the 20th century, have not yet been sufficiently researched. To change this, a complete database on GDR patents is built to find female inventors and patent holders and to show how female innovation developed in the GDR over time and whether it differentiated from the development of overall innovation in the GDR. This research therefore contributes to the prevailing literature on gender gaps in patenting. First findings suggest that in the initial years of the GDR female driven innovation is low in numbers, and that among Merited Inventors throughout the timespan of the GDR women were even harder to find, but in the late years of the GDR inventions with female participation held a much higher percentage. The hypothesis is that the women´s policy of the GDR had to have at least a certain impact on the female-driven innovation.

Women inventors: an exploration of French patents 1791-1900

Session: 5

Authors: Youssouf Merouani

Co-authors: Faustine Perrin

Abstract: The expanding research on the evolution of women’s position in society has contributed to dispel persistent myths about how much they contributed to the economic prosperity of developed and developing economies. Scholars have addressed the role of gender and women’s economic activities on economic development (e.g. Boserup, 1970; Goldin, 1990), showing the importance of human capital as key component for the development process (e.g. Diebolt and Perrin, 2013; Baten and de Pleijt, 2021). Although a rich literature has documented the importance of technical and scientific knowledge in the emergence and adoption of innovative industrial technology fostering the industrialization process (Mokyr, 2010; Squicciarini, and Voigtländer, 2015; Cinnirella and Streb, 2017; Mokyr, Sarid, van der Beek, 2019; among others), we lack knowledge on how much women may have contributed to the process. Using a sample drawn from patent and exhibition records for France during the first half of the nineteenth century, Khan (2016) recently showed that entrepreneurship and innovation was not only done by the elites in society but also by middle-class women. During this era women were unable to acquire formal schooling, and it was not until the second half of the nineteenth century that changes in French legislation permitted the establishment of a wider state educational system open to both sexes (Perrin, 2013). Furthermore, while the legal status of women in France was more equal than most other countries in Europe, married women still faced more restrictions than widowed or unmarried women (Lewis, 1980). In this paper, we investigate the evolution of women patenting over time and across space. More specifically, we question the extent to which women participated to the innovation process during the crucial phase of industrialization in France. To this end, we build an original dataset covering patents granted to French women between 1791 and 1899. Despite the absence of scientific and technical education for women, women took an active part in the innovation process. Paradoxically, despite the legal restrictions established by the Civil Code, we find that married women occur more frequently in patent data than widows and unmarried women. The structural changes in human capital investment occurring in the second half of the nineteenth century may have contributed to foster the ability for women to innovate and invent. Substantial regional variation can also be observed across the French territory. The purpose of this study is not only to shed quantitative light on women’s patenting during the whole nineteenth century in France, but also to explore differences in women’s and men’s patenting behavior on a micro-spatial level during the industrialization process. This paper has significance for our understanding of women lives in the past but it has also wider implications, notably to enhance our understanding of the mechanisms behind the development process via the exploration of the links between upper-tail human capital and economic growth.

Women, Jews, and Foreigners. A Data Analysis of Minority Inventorship in Nazi Germany

Session: 5

Authors: Sophia Rishyna

Co-authors: NA

Abstract: When one thinks of the economic and social circumstances faced by women, Jews, and foreign nationals in the Third Reich, very different challenges spring to mind. Through examining the patenting behavior of these minority groups in comparison with the average German inventor, this research will contribute to the literature on patents as a measure for innovation. Furthermore, an examination of archival material will show whether Nazi Germany’s legislation or the administrative practice made it legal to discriminate against minorities. The analyzed patent data stems from a newly built database, which allows to differentiate between inventors and patent holders, and offers information on gender, nationality, and, in the case of some inventors, their (perceived) Jewishness. So far, the results indicate that there is no discrimination towards foreign inventors or companies wishing to patent in Germany, even if they are citizens of the Third Reich’s opponents in the Second World War. Female inventors are found to be more likely to co-invent, both as independent inventors, as well as with patents where a company is the patent holder. The patenting behavior of Jewish inventors has proven as the most challenging to investigate because the inventor’s name could legally be omitted in the application.