Using data to drive diversity at Spotify
In 2022, Spotify signed the Diversity Pledge about Increasing Diversity in Innovation. For those not familiar with this pledge, it uses patent information to understand inventorship and addresses the issue that some groups are severely underrepresented as inventors.
Studies done by WIPO, the USPTO and the EPO show that women are an underrepresented group. The trend to improve this is only slowly positive and, at the current speed, it will take more than 100 years to reach gender parity.
Is this a problem?
Yes, it is – both economically, as we need more inventions to help with issues such as climate change and the lack of new antibiotics, and also socially. We do not want people to feel that they have less opportunities just because they belong to a certain group.
Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging (DEIB) is a very important topic at Spotify, so it felt natural to sign the pledge and start working on some data. The idea was well received internally.
We focused on women in tech, because it is global and we have global data on gender. Moreover, Spotify has been focused on increasing the representation of women in the workforce, and in tech specifically, and women in tech increased from 24% to 32% in the last six years at Spotify. Moreover, we were keen on comparing our data with the data from the different patent offices.
So, the first thing was to capture the data. Ideally, we wanted to go back to the beginning of our patenting activities to see the trend over time, however retrieving gender information as far back as 2007 was not possible, so we agreed on using data for the period 2015-2022.
In this period we filed 380 patents. Together with our People data, we created an overview of the gender representation among the inventors on those patents.
There are several parameters that can be used for invention measurement, but for PTO comparing reasons we selected Women Inventor Rate (WIR) defined as percentage of listed inventors that are women.
Table 1.0 (Women Inventor Rate for 2019)
While the result (Table 1.0) looks quite good compared to other global data, we are far away from 50%. Well, you might say, this seems logical given that Spotify is a tech company, and tech companies tend to employ fewer women? Yes, and no.
We have and continue to invest in growing the number of women in tech. Our R&D female workforce in 2019 was 27.4% (today it is 32%), so we still had an “Inclusivity Gap” of 8.5%. The Inclusivity Gap is the difference between the percentage of women (27.4%) and WIR (18.9%) and is a representative number for how well women proportionally contribute to the inventions.
Admittedly, this was only one data point (2019), but unfortunately, the other years did not look much better. Furthermore, the data suggested that we did better six or seven years ago and that the trend was going in the wrong direction (Table 1.2). This means while we are increasing the number of women in R&D, we are not seeing a proportional increase in contribution as inventors. So what to do?
Table 1.2 (Inclusivity Gap - Spotify 2015-2022)
We decided to focus on awareness and launch a campaign “Women Inventors at Spotify'' both internally and on social media (Instagram, X (Twitter), LinkedIn) as well as creating a podcast on Life at Spotify where we feature female inventors that can be spotlighted as ambassadors and role models.
This campaign is ongoing and so far three women have been featured. Each of them gets to answer ten questions related to their role, view on innovation and learning experiences. It has so far been very well received and we hope that everyone shall be encouraged to invent and patent more.
We have so far not set a formal target for an Inclusivity Gap, however as we continue to double down on women and gender equity, we believe there is great potential to reduce this gap. We will also continue to explore the diversity within women, consider intersectional aspects and other factors. We are also thinking about if there are other groups, such as based on job profiles, which are underrepresented as inventors.
As part of the Pledge, we participate in a working group Increasing Diversity in Innovation where we discuss our results and findings with other industry companies and at CIP Forum in September 2023 in Stockholm.
Some of us (Spotify, Volvo, Meta) together with Lord Justice Birss and a representative from Kilburn & Strode met in person and shared experiences with the audience.
It was interesting to hear that most companies believe they are better than average before they capture the data, but few in fact were. The only thing that helps is to gather the data and start comparing numbers. Only then do you know and can take the right measures.
Inclusivity Insights is a regular feature in which companies share stories, learnings, and experiences of their D&I journey related to IP and innovation with the IAM audience. Previous articles in the series: