Is Innovation Dominated by Men?


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Yes, it is a provocative question and I expect a good discussion on this : – )

The reason for the question is an interesting exchange of tweets that was sparked when I tweeted that the upcoming Silicon Valley Meets Open Innovation conference has a great line-up of speakers. It was then rightfully noted by @terrigriffith and @nilofer that almost all the speakers are men – it is actually a whooping 1 to 33 ratio!

Well, this sparked some further tweets among us and I got some push-back when I tweeted that ” innovation is male-dominated; more women/diversity cld bring better results”.

One came from @BillJohnston, who tweeted “@lindegaard “Innovation is male dominated” holy shit, did you really just say that?”

Yes, I did and before we get into this discussion, let me clarify a few things.

First, I really believe diversity brings out better innovation. I don’t think many will argue on this.

Second, I think women can help bring out better innovation. No, I don’t believe that men and women are created equal with regards to innovation. We have different values, mindset and this also gives us different tools to work with and overall this forms our ability to make an impact.

Third, the questions and issues I raise in this post are based on my observations rather than facts. I am very open to hearing other views and it would be even better if someone could point us to research on diversity (especially women versus men) in the context of innovation.

Let me share some of the observations I have made on this topic:

Have you been at an innovation conference lately? I attend several and often as a speaker. Most of them have a clear majority of men both as participants and as speakers.

I assume the ratio of men and women using LinkedIn is balanced so when I use my 1400 contacts in a LinkedIn search (results based on the networks of networks effect), I should get a balanced view. I did a search on Fortune 1000 companies anywhere in the world on people with the below terms in their current titles:

• Innovation: 6,348 results. As I skimmed through the first couple of hundred profiles, I noticed a clear majority of men.
• Business Development: 48,335 results. Here the majority of men seems even higher than with innovation.
• Creative: 9,453 results. Here the mix was quite balanced although it seems to have a slight majority of men.

I read lots of blog posts and articles on innovation and most of the content is written by men.

The last observation that I can bring into this discussion is what I see when I work with corporate innovation teams. You’re right. I see more men than women.

I might be biased in some way or it might be that I just see things differently simply by being a male, but my observations clearly lead me to believe that the field of innovation is male-dominated. Here it is very important to have in mind that this discussion is not a question of quality; it is rather one on quantity.

So what do you think of this? Is the field of innovation really dominated by men?

And if take a forward view on this – as @nilofer rightfully hinted we should in our tweet exchange – what does this mean? If you agree with my observations, this definitely raises other relevant questions:

To which extent and in which ways does male-dominance (quantitatively speaking) in the field of innovation impact outcomes?

What actions – if any – should companies take to deal with this?

There is an old but relevant discussion going on about getting more women into executive and leadership positions. In the Nordic region, there is even lots of debate on whether there should be set quotas for this (Norway already has this for board members). Could this bring more diversity (men versus women) into the field of innovation?

Again, my last questions are based on agreement with my observations. You might disagree. If so, let me know if you can share other relevant insights on this topic.

As a closing statement, I would like to bring your attention to an article that showcases how a conference organizer managed to get more diversity into their speaker lineup. It is an interesting read – Solving the Pipeline Problem

Add a comment! I look forward to hearing your views!

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Stefan Lindegaard
Stefan is an author, speaker, facilitator and consultant focusing on open innovation, social media tools and intrapreneurship.


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