International Women's Day (IWD) is celebrated annually on March 8th to recognize and celebrate the achievements and contributions of women in all aspects of life. For me, it is a day to reflect on the progress towards gender equality, acknowledge the remaining challenges, and look forward to what we need to change.
I want to return to the concept of change later in my post. However, for now, let's explore the theme for International Women's Day 2023: "Innovate for Change."
This year the focus is on the role of women in Innovation and how their ideas and contributions can drive progress and create a more equitable world. Women have significantly contributed to Innovation in many fields, from science and technology to the arts and social sciences. Their achievements and talents have transformed industries and improved the quality of life for people around the globe.
Women in Innovation
Women have always been innovators, but their contributions have often been overlooked or undervalued, although there is a growing recognition of women's vital role in Innovation in recent years.
So why is this important for everyone? Why should we care? Well, research has shown that diverse teams, including women, are more innovative and creative than homogeneous teams. More Innovation equals more value for everyone. Everyone benefits. That's why it is important.
When women are involved in decision-making, there is a broader range of ideas, perspectives, and solutions.
However, women are still underrepresented in many fields, including science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). According to UNESCO, less than 30% of researchers worldwide are women, and women are significantly underrepresented in patent applications. I am certainly not knowledgeable enough to discuss the complexities of why this is happening so I will defer to others to continue the conversation on why.
However, from an Innovator's perspective, this issue limits what we can all achieve. It limits Innovation.
So, today I wanted to reflect on just a few of the incredible innovators that have changed the way we live, for the better, in particular in the STEM fields. Time to acknowledge and celebrate them. Celebrate STEM women.
Women's Contributions to Innovation
Women have made significant contributions to Innovation in many fields. There are just too many to discuss in my post today. However, the women I wanted to focus on today all have made an incredible impact in the STEM fields:
Ada Lovelace: Lovelace is often considered the world's first computer programmer. In the 1840s, she worked with Charles Babbage on his Analytical Engine, a mechanical computer never built. Lovelace wrote a series of notes on the engine that included what is now recognized as the first algorithm designed to be processed by a machine.
Grace Hopper: Hopper was a computer scientist who invented the first compiler. This program translates code written in one programming language into another. This Innovation made writing programs in higher-level languages possible, significantly reducing the time and effort required to create computer programs.
Rosalind Franklin: Franklin was a chemist who played a critical role in the discovery of the structure of DNA. Her work using X-ray crystallography provided crucial data that helped Watson and Crick develop their famous model of the DNA molecule.
Mary Anderson: Anderson was an inventor who patented the windshield wiper in 1903. Her invention revolutionized the automotive industry, making driving safer and more comfortable for millions of people worldwide.
Marie Curie: Curie was a physicist and chemist who made groundbreaking contributions to the study of radioactivity. She was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize and remains the only person to have won Nobel Prizes in two different scientific fields.
The Value of Women in Innovation
So why does it matter? It matters because we all lose if we exclude the participation of women more broadly in opportunities to innovate and, more specifically, in the STEM fields. Again, not saying that there is no innovation and value in other areas
Women bring unique perspectives, experiences, and skills to Innovation.
Research has shown that diverse teams are more innovative and creative than homogeneous teams. When women are involved in Innovation, there is a broader range of ideas, perspectives, and solutions. This diversity leads to better decision-making and more effective problem-solving.
Innovation and Change
So, let's come back to the concept of change I highlighted earlier. Without change, you cannot create new value; if you cannot create new value, it is difficult to argue you are innovating.
This got me thinking of my favourite and most powerful quote relating to change by an American cultural anthropologist, Margaret Mead, who once famously said,
"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."
This quote speaks to our power and ability to effect change by us. All of us as individuals.
When it comes to Innovation, this quote is particularly relevant. Innovation often starts with a small group of individuals who are passionate about a particular idea or problem. Innovators! These individuals are committed to finding new solutions and willing to take risks and challenge the status quo. They believe that their actions can make a difference and that they can change the world.
Innovation is not just about coming up with new ideas but also about implementing them and bringing them to fruition. Delivering Value! This requires commitment, perseverance, and a willingness to take risks. It also requires believing that change is possible and that individuals can make a difference.
It requires change!
Margaret Mead's quote reminds me that Innovation is about us. All of us! It is not only the domain of large corporations or governments. It can start with a small group of individuals who are committed to making a difference. These individuals can be anyone, regardless of background, education, or experience. What is essential is their passion and commitment to the idea. To see it through to delivery. See it through to effect change and thereby create new value = Innovation!
Margaret Mead's quote encourages us to believe in our ability to effect change and to be part of the small group of individuals who can change the world through Innovation.
So of all the people Margaret Meade is the person who has had the most significant impact on my thinking about Innovation, the importance of change and who is best placed to effect change.
Thank you, Margeret Meade!
Happy International Women's Day
Read More About
Benefits of Diversity In Innovation
About the Author
Adam Ryan is a Professor of Practice (Adjunct Professor) at Monash University and is a principal at Watkins Bay. Adam has over twenty years of start-up experience in Australia and the USA. An expert in Company Structuring for Innovation, Strategy, Mergers & Acquisitions, and Capital for early and growth-stage businesses.
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