This paper shows that gender inequality affects the extent to which scientific ideas are used to develop new technologies. Despite strong incentives to select the most promising ideas, we claim that inventors are more likely to build on men’s rather than women’s science. We exploit the occurrence of simultaneous discoveries – i.e., instances when a man and a woman publish the same idea around the same time – and track the citations that those papers receive in patented inventions. The papers led by female scientists receive on average 40% fewer patent citations than their male-led twin. We examine several explanations for this gender gap in inventors’ attention. The pattern of results is consistent with inventors’ value expectations being a driver of the attention gap, beyond differences in the salience, overall productivity, and academic impact of scientists’ research. These findings have implications for our understanding of frictions in science-based technology development, as well as for broader theories of how gender inequality shapes cumulative innovation.
Contact person: Michael Rose
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