It’s well-known that women are underrepresented in STEM fields and, as a result, a higher percentage of patents are issued to male inventors. As of 2010, the National Science Foundation (NSF) reported that more than half of America’s total science and engineering workforce was composed of white men. Only 28 percent of that workforce is composed of women. The same is true in other major economies. Statistics released this March by UK’s Women’s Engineering Society (WES) indicate that women continue to make up less than 10 percent of the British engineering workforce. With comparatively few women engineers and scientists in the workforce, it’s not completely surprising that less than 20 percent of U.S. patents issued up to 2010 included at least one woman inventor.
The Girl Scouts of America, in conjunction with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and the Intellectual Property Owners (IPO) Education Foundation, is doing its part to promote innovative thinking patterns among girls with the creation of the Intellectual Property (IP) Patch. The IP Patch is available to Girl Scouts in four different levels: Brownie; Junior; Cadette; and Senior. The Brownie Inventor badge requires scouts to find a problem, make a needs list, solve that problem and share that solution with others. The Junior Product Designer badge requires scouts to identify issues with a product and find an innovative solution to that problem. The Cadette Entrepreneur badge involves brainstorming business ideas, picking one and looking at the financial requirements of that business. The Senior Social Innovator badge is designed to get scouts thinking about how to innovate solutions to larger social problems and getting feedback on their ideas. Each of these badges has been designed with some type of IP component to show scouts the value of protecting their intellectual property.
Initially the patch was only developed for the Girl Scout Council of the Nation’s Capital, meaning that only Girl Scouts belonging to troops in the Washington, DC area were eligible to receive these badges. In late December, however, a group of 25 Girl Scouts from Colorado became the first scouts in their state to earn the IP Patch.
The inventor’s streak is one which runs deep in the Girl Scouts organization, going right back to the days of its foundation. USPTO’s website on the IP Patch notes that Girl Scouts of America was founded by Juliette Gordon Low who herself was an inventor with two patents to her name according to the USPTO. One utility patent covered a liquid container which could be used in trash cans. The other was a design patent which covered the design of the original Girl Scouts trefoil which represents the three-fold promise which Girl Scouts make to serve God and country, help people at all times and to live by the Girl Scout law.