In the Lépine competition, a “male world” with almost no female inventors

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posted on Sunday 08 May 2022 at 08:33

“I was told + is an idea of ​​a good woman who has nothing in her head +”: rare are the inventors who managed to reach the famous Lépine contest, often “not taken seriously” and less free to innovate.

At the top of the stands of the competition that awards the best inventions on Sunday, the names of their designers are proudly seen: Guillaume, Patrice, Aurélien … But almost no female names.

In total, out of the 358 candidates competing this year, only 8 female inventors are competing alone. “We have a severe shortage of women, just 2% in the competition,” sighs competition director Barbara Dorey. “It really is a manly world.”

A situation that has not escaped the rare competitors. “There are only men around us!” Outrages Aurore Fekhart, 30, the inventor of a pass-through sleeve to help babies and sick adults put on extra mattresses without reluctance.

The problem according to her? “They clearly do not take us seriously,” “especially when we are looking for funding.” “There are blockages, (…) something patriarchal,” he added, emphasizing the supremacy of men “among the jury or among the bankers.”

For Christine Garcia, “being a woman in the wine world was painful.” This inventor of a wine aerator assures that its investors “put a beam on the wheel”. “I was told + it’s an idea of ​​a good woman who has nothing on her head +, but in fact, it starts with a serious investigation confirmed by professionals”, adds the fifty, convinced that “this would be much easier for a man” .

– Male looting –

Historically, the few women who “surpass” in the invention are explained by a “very late female education”, access to higher education was unlocked “in the late 19th century”, says Natalie Pigeard-Micault, a specialist in the history of women in science, a field to which they are still little driven today by their education.

Added to this is an affirmative lack of models because “women were introduced to school textbooks only in the late 1990s”, so that the sciences belong above all to the male imagination. Under dispute ? “The Matilda effect”, ie the systematic minimization of the contribution of women, whose work is often attributed to their male relatives.

At the beginning of the Lépine contest, “even though Madame invented it, it was Monsieur who filed the patent,” confirms Barbara Dorey. And even though things have changed, only 16% of the patents filed in France in 2017 were filed by women, according to a study by the UK Intellectual Property Office. “We only continue to receive files in the husband’s name only when both appear on the patent!” adds Dorey.

“Women do not dare and that is a pity,” sighs Christine Garcia. “We have so little confidence, because we are not given credibility.” She also mentions in her case difficulties “on the part of the family”, which require “iron perseverance” towards an unruly spouse.

– The “Gingenious” –

“There are women who can not believe it, because when you limit yourself to cooking and taking care of the children, you do not have time to think,” says Mrs. Fekhart with an explosive parsimony. At home “he is the dad who keeps the children on the 12 days of the competition. Besides, it’s his too!”

“Invention is a passion we develop in our spare time,” says Pauline Arnaud of the Zingénieuses, a competition that rewards young inventors ages 7 to 12. “Men allow themselves more because they have a much lower mental load,” he says.

The main problem for him? Move the desire, especially by promoting female models. “A little girl who does not see women inventing on TV will not allow herself to be”, is a “vicious circle”.

Hence the idea of ​​competing with a jury composed exclusively of women scientists. One way “to encourage little girls to explore the spirit of their innovation”, “what we do very little”. Answer in late June for this first version, which may wake up calls.

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