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Gender Disparities In Patent Review Outcomes Are Pronounced For More Novel Patent Applications
Female representation among highly impactful inventive activity continues to remain low despite significant advances in female labor force participation. Existing research suggests that this results at least in part, from disparities in rewards that female and male inventors receive for similar levels of productivity. However, prior work treats productivity indicators to be objectively measured in terms of patent grants, failing to acknowledge that the patent review and prosecution process may itself differentiate between female and male inventors. Our analysis of approximately 2.8 million patent applications provides evidence of systematic gender disparities in terms of the likelihood that an application is granted a patent, the intensity of examination it is subject to, and, conditional on it being granted, the reduction in its scope. More important, we construct a text-based measure of application novelty and find that not only do gender disparities persist after accounting for variation in application novelty, but that they are systematically larger for applications that are more novel. Our results shed light on the processes that disadvantage female inventors and advance the literature on interventions aimed at increasing women’s representation in inventive work.