Women's creativity yet to be fully harnessed

June 05, 2018 09:45
Women applying for international patents increased from 12 percent in the 1990s to 31 percent last year.. Photo: wisat.org

Governments and organizations often cite the shortage of talent in the market, but a study suggests that many countries actually are not making full use of their human capital.

According to the Global Human Capital Report 2017 of the World Economic Forum, only 25 of the 130 countries assessed have made full use of their talents, registering a human resources utilization rate above 70 percent. Most countries are at 50-70 percent, while 14 countries are lower than 50 percent.

According to the report, many countries actually have an abundance of talents, but they lack training to update workers’ skills, or their resource allocation is not ideal, so people are not given enough opportunity to fully apply their strengths.

For example, many women failed to receive equal pay for equal work, thereby weakening their enthusiasm for work.

Although young people have better formal education, they lack development opportunities in their career.

The reason for this is that many employers are old-fashioned and could not readily accommodate young people’s aspirations, expectations and even global views which are much different from their predecessors.

Those belonging to the new generation, especially women, should be able to play a more important role in our development as a technology hub.

According to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), women applying for international patents increased from 12 percent in the 1990s to 31 percent last year.

In South Korea, a male-dominated country, there is at least one female inventor involved in half of the patent applications. This ratio is the highest among the 152 member countries.

This is in line with South Korea’s rising reputation in the field of innovation. The country is among the top performers in various international rankings. This year, for example, it won the global innovation gold medal in Bloomberg’s Innovation Ranking for the fifth straight year.

China is also outstanding in having female inventors involved in 48 percent of its patent applications, followed by Belgium at 36 percent, Spain at 35 percent and the United States at 33 percent.

Female inventors mainly contributed in biotechnology, which accounted for 58 percent of all patent applications at WIPO in 2017), pharmaceuticals (56 percent), organic fine chemistry (55 percent) and food chemistry (51 percent).

There are female inventors in well over 60 percent of patent-producing companies in South Korea, Switzerland, France, the US, and Germany.

Their participation in academic institutions is even more prominent: more than 80 percent of patent applications from the Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute of Korea have female members. 

Four institutions in mainland China – Shenzhen Institutes of Advanced Technology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Jiangnan University, Tsinghua University, and Jiangsu University – also have female developers in at least 80 percent of their patent applications.

However, as the WIPO director general pointed out, a pronounced gender gap in the research and development sector still exists.

To change the male-dominated culture, education is an important way.

Esri China (Hong Kong), of which I am the chairman, launched Asia's first free e-learning project, the Map in Learning Program, two years ago.

The project allows Hong Kong primary and secondary students to use ArcGIS Online, a professional geographic information system (GIS) software for the government and enterprises.

Through this e-learning software, young people can enhance their problem-solving ability, helping them to develop their potential.

Although this project is not tailor-made for female students, the enthusiasm they have shown in the projects and their brilliant performance in competitions convinced me that this software can really arouse their interest in learning.

I hope that women will play a more important role in the future, and can release their strengths in Hong Kong's development as an international innotech hub and as a smart city.

– Contact us at [email protected].com


Adjunct Professor, Department of Computer Science, Faculty of Engineering; Department of Geography, Faculty of Social Sciences; and Faculty of Architecture, The University of Hong Kong