For more than 4 decades, our calendar marks March 8th as an opportunity to highlight the women’s struggle for gender equality. The date is an incentive to society so that it does not forget that, for centuries, women have been institutionally excluded from university courses, sports competitions, political parties, and so many other public spaces.
Much has been written about the topic. Concurrently, in his acclaimed book Sapiens – A Brief History of Humanity, Yuval Noah Harari reports that the maintenance of women in a position of inferiority was, for many years, justified because muscles, aggressiveness, and even genetics were the reasons why women would be relegated to a secondary role. However, the writer points out that these justifications could not be sustained and deteriorated over time. It was noticed that women possess, on average, vital characteristics for society, such as greater resistance to hunger, disease, and fatigue. In addition, they tend to be better able to communicate and collaborate.
Recent history brings us to dozens of women who have overcome the barriers of their time and excelled in areas hitherto dominated by men. Specifically in science, the brilliant Marie Skłodowska Curie, twice Nobel Prize laureate, in the areas of physics and chemistry. The Polish scientist, among other things, discovered two chemical elements: radium and polonium.
While Curie marked our past, the current time presents us with researchers Jennifer Anne Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier who together received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2020 for developing the CRISPR-Cas9 method for genome editing. According to Doudna’s biographer, the scientist’s work was not limited to merely detailing a natural phenomenon, but in creating a true genetic editing tool, a genuine invention “versatile, useful and reprogrammable” – which made the system particularly important, both from a scientific point of view and from the point of view of intellectual property”. There is a consensus in the scientific and medical world that the work carried out by these remarkable women promotes to humanity new tools to face diseases until then without a cure.
In the field of inventions, there is still a persistent gap in female representation in the use of the industrial property protection system. According to 2020 statistics released by the World Intellectual Property Organization – WIPO, not even 20% of the inventors named in international patent applications (PCT) were women. Most of these women filed a patent application through public research organizations and higher education institutions, while the other male inventors are mostly from for-profit businesses.
Like any commemorative date, March 8th carries a historical context and 4 or 5 decades would not be enough to repair structural failures perpetuated by countless generations. However, let us look at the present as an opportunity to correct what can still be repaired. And especially in the area of innovation, we must encourage the engagement of an increasing number of women so that they have access to tools for managing and protecting intellectual property. Thus, following the example of Doudna and Charpentier’s legacy, society will benefit from the invaluable advances that women can offer to the world.