France Press agency , Posted on Sunday May 8, 2022 at 08:33
“I was told it was the idea of a good woman who had nothing in her head +”: Rarely are inventors who have managed to make their way to Lépine’s prestigious competition, often “not taken seriously” and less free to invent.
At the top of the podiums of the competition rewarding the best inventions on Sunday, the names of their designers are proudly displayed: Guillaume, Patrice, Aurélien … but almost no female names.
In total, of the 358 candidates competing this year, only 8 female inventors compete alone. “We have a severe shortage of women, barely 2% in competition,” competition director Barbara Dorey sighs. “It really is a man’s world.”
The situation did not escape from rare competitors. « There are only men around us! » Says Auror Viekart, 30, the inventor of the pass-through sleeves to help sick children and adults wear extra layers without hesitation under those below.
What is the problem, according to her? « We obviously don’t take it seriously, » especially when looking for funding. And she adds: « There are obstacles, (…) something patriarchal, » stressing the predominance of men « among prize jurors or among bankers. »
For Christine Garcia, « Being a woman in the wine world has been hard work. » The inventor of the wine aerator asserts that investors have « put a shaft in the wheel » for it. “I was told it was an idea of a good woman who had nothing in her head +, when in fact it was starting from serious research endorsed by professionals,” the fifty-year-old adds, convinced it “would be much easier on a man.”
– Male looting –
Historically, the few women « breakers » of the invention are explained by « the very late female education », since access to higher education was opened « at the end of the nineteenth century », notes Nathalie Begerd Mikault, a specialist in women’s history at Science, a field their education still pushes quite a bit today.
Added to this is a glaring lack of models because “women were introduced into textbooks only at the end of the nineties”, so that science belongs above all to the male imagination. Because ? The « Matilda effect », that is, the systematic underestimation of a woman’s contribution, whose work is often attributed to her male relatives.
At the start of the Lépine competition, “Even if the lady invented it, it was the master who filed the patent,” Barbara Dore affirms. Even if things change, only 16% of patents filed in France in 2017 were filed by women, according to a study by the UK’s Intellectual Property Office. Ms. Dore adds: « We still receive files in the husband’s name alone when both appear on the patent! »
« Women don’t dare and that’s a shame, » Christine Garcia sighs. « We have little self-confidence, because we are not given credibility. » She also mentioned in her case the difficulties « on the family side », which required « iron perseverance » in the face of the rebellious husband.
– ‘Zingenious’ –
« There are women who are unbelievable, because when you are limited to making food and looking after the children, you don’t have time to think, » says Ms. Vicart with explosive gossip. At home, « It is the father who takes care of the children during the 12 days of the competition. After all, he is also his son! »
“Invention is a passion that we develop in our spare time,” analyzes Pauline Arnault, of Zingénieuses, a competition that rewards young inventors from ages 7 to 12. « Men allow themselves more because their mental burden is much less, » she says.
The main problem for him? Arouse desire, particularly through the promotion of female models. « The little girl who doesn’t see the woman who invents on TV won’t allow herself to do it, » it’s a « vicious cycle. »
Hence the idea of competing with a jury made up entirely of female scientists. A way to « encourage young girls to explore their innovative spirit », « what we do a little bit ». Reply at the end of June to this first edition, which will probably raise invitations.