ISSN 2330-717X

Female Inventors Earn 14% Less Than Male Counterparts


In industrial research, females only represent 4.2% of all inventors, and earn about 14% less than their male peers, even after taking into account possible differences in jobs, potential parenthood, and other characteristics. Most importantly, the difference in earnings persists in spite of the fact that the quality of research of females does not differ from that of males.

Myriam Mariani (Bocconi University) and her co-author Karin Hoisl (Mannheim University) reach this conclusion after carefully studying a sample of 9,692 inventors from 23 countries. They report their findings in an article to be published in Management Science.

The authors find that the relationship between having children and income is negative but is not statistically different for males and females. Still, females earn 14% less than do males. Furthermore, they match females with males that have similar characteristics, and investigate whether within this group of similar males and females there is any difference in wage. Even then, females earn a statistically significantly lower income.

In conclusion, the authors find, using very robust methodologies, that part of the wage gap between male and female inventors remains even after accounting for a large amount of personal characteristics that might differ on average between male and female inventors.

This study raises key issues for policy makers. Women are significantly underrepresented among inventors, and those who succeed as inventors earn less than their male peers. Policy makers might intervene to foster greater access to science-based professions during early education. To stimulate science and engineering enrollment by women, teachers might seek to encourage female students to engage in scientific studies; school administrators also could provide information to families about the importance of early (scientific) learning and socialization processes that influence children’s preferences for science. In addition to intervening in early educational stages, to equip women with the skills and competences required to pursue inventive jobs, government action is required to create mechanisms for ensuring equal wages for equally performing or skilled employees.

One reason for the relatively few women in inventive jobs may be that women recognize the lower return they would earn from becoming an inventor. Furthermore, they may anticipate the potentially negative impact of having children, causing them to refrain from choosing careers in R&D or to drop out early. Not only must managers and employees remain aware of this issue, but targeted actions also are required to make compensation equal, including the maintenance of continuous work histories or legislation that mandates pay transparency.

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