Women Inventors in Context Disparities in Patenting across Academia and Industry

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Explanations of productivity differences between men and women in science tend to focus on the academic sector and the individual level. This article examines how variation in organizational logic affects sex differences in scientists' commercial productivity, as measured by patenting. Using detailed data from a sample of academic and industrial life scientists working in the United States, the authors present multivariate regression models of scientific patenting. The data show that controlling for education- and career-history variables, women are less likely to patent than men. However, in biotechnology firms—industrial settings characterized by flatter, more flexible, network-based organizational structures— women scientists are more likely to become patent-holding inventors than in more hierarchically arranged organizational settings in industry or academia. The authors discuss how the organization of scientists'work settings may influence enduring disparities between men and women in science and the implications of these findings for future work.

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