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Gender & Innovation - What qualities will help us through the 21st century?

Before we start exploring gender differences in the context of innovation, let us say that there is nothing we believe in more than the wisdom of the American Indian Irokese Tribe who knew that “It will take all of us to save us”. However, while there does indeed seem to be a growing consensus among companies worldwide that gender diversity and equality is an imperative both from an ethical and a business perspective - are you aware that one of McKinsey’s core themes is ‘Women in the economy’ - reality still shows a different picture; to quote from an article published in The Guardian December 2013  “Yet women are still less likely than men to be associated with leadership positions in the UK: they account for 22% of MPs and peers, 20% of university professors, 6.1% of FTSE 100 executive positions, and 3% of board chairpersons. Income inequality has risen faster in the UK than any other OCED country and today women earn on average £140,000 less than men over their working careers.”

At the same time we believe that there is something about the wider context of the 21st century that calls for a stronger presence of attitudes and behaviours commonly more associated with women, such as being caring, collaborative, involving, future oriented. In fact, when Harvard Business School professors John Gerzema and Michael D’Antonio asked 64,000 individuals from 13 countries about the top 10 desirable leadership qualities for the 21st century, then followed up asking about half that number to classify 125 different human characteristics as either masculine, feminine or neither,they found that 8 out of the 10 leadership qualities were viewed as female.

While there are also many who hold the view that men are more creative than women - just have a read of the Huffington Post article - we are glad to have found an article by Adi Gaskell, member of the ILF Wider Community, in which he points out flaws in this generalisation. Adi quotes a study from 2013 which revealed that women have as many ideas as men, but their ideas are often not taken seriously or listened to with the same attention as those of their male counterparts. It also emerged that these ideas were given less support to bring them to fruition. In part this may have to do with the way women communicate; we (I can say ‘we’ as we are an all female team…), tend to be apologetic, and use many qualifiers which undermines our argument and credibility. Looking at actions rather than words, it seems though that we women do rather well when it comes to entrepreneurship! Which is why Kevin O’Leary, Canadian entrepreneur and Shark in the american ‘Shark Tank’ television show, prefers to invest in women. In a recent  interview he pointed out that all of his successful investments were run by women, attributing their success to superior time and risk management skills.

One last point, whether women ‘are living up’ to traditional stereotypes or not very much depends on the context and what kind of behaviour and performance is ‘expected’ by their friends, family, society. Authors Adam Galinsky and Maurice Schweitzer believe that power differentials are the underlying driver for gender differences.


We have seen that more and more women are taking a proactive position as entrepreneurs and innovators. For example the BWE21 (Business Women of Egypt 21), whose founder is Yomna El Sheridy, is an absolutely amazing and powerful group of business women in Egypt, with many and deep connections to business women in other parts of the Middle East.  It has been set up to support women entrepreneurs and business owners in the region, and by doing so it has become a driving force for social and economic change. If you would like to learn more about their work, their next conference, titled Women Leaders for Economic Prosperity, is taking place 18-22 February 2016 in Gouna, Red Sea. You can find more information here. Do mention the ILF connection when you get in touch with them.

Another company with the purpose of connecting and supporting women entrepreneurs around the globe, of which Bettina has the privilege to be part, is UnitedSucces, set up by globally minded Dutch woman Corinne Heijn in 2008. As UnitedSucces Director, Yvonne Finch, pointed out to us recently, once you are part of this group of wonderful women you never have to feel alone again.
It was through this amazing women's network that Bettina met Madeleine Van Der Steege who  was working on her project ‘We Soar’, a piece of global research into women entrepreneurship. Both immediately recognised each other as fellow-travellers on their journey to understand, learn and grow – and inspire others to join on this journey. Madeleine, an award-winning entrepreneur herself, founded Synquity to support personal leadership and organisational transformation. We love how ‘Synquity’ came about: Madeleine fused ‘Synergy and Equity’ which to her refers to the splendour and beauty of being in sync with yourself and others at work or home.
Another Friend of the ILF to whom we would like to introduce you in this context is  Jennifer Ann Gordon, a true artist – with words, with the paintbrush, with life. She and Bettina met in Taos back in 2007 at a ‘Leadership for Women’ retreat.   Jennifer is one of those people whose questions or comments might irritate you… not because they are irrelevant or rude, but because they hit a spot – one  that you would have preferred not to look at and her sincere interest and compassion  make it difficult both to ignore it or get angry! This ability is probably also why she gets involved in the entrepreneurial scene a lot. Oh yes, and not to forget her blog and her book, A Woman’s mind half naked (revised edition).

Given all his amazing work on educating girls in his native village in India, we cannot omit to mention  Mehmood Khan. He is a very dear friend of Bettina’s and was faithful member of Innovators Anonymous until he left his position as Global Leader Innovation Process Development at Unilever (after 33 years) to go back to his home village in India, Nai Nangla in Haryana, where he is improving the lives through education, skill development and better access to the basic amenities in life. You can read about some of the challenges here [link to ] and in his interview in Forbes India. You may also want to have a read of his entry in Bettina’s book ‘The Future of Innovation’ in which he declares, “If you educate one girl, you educate the family.”


On the same note, we are delighted to share with you the new book of member of the ILF Wider Community, Joanna L. Krotz: Being Equal Doesn't Mean Being the Same: Why Behaving Like a Girl Can Change Your Life and Grow Your Business. Among other issues, she explores women's distinctly different ways of launching, leading, selling, marketing and so on. The innovation is to redefine diversity as respecting women's ways of business as opposed to judging their performance and choices via male standards and benchmarks. 

On our previous mailout, we mentioned  the book by Friend of the ILF, Petra Künkel, “The Art of Leading Collectively: Co-Creating a Sustainable, Socially Just Future”. We believe this is also a relevant book in the context of woman in innovation as it discusses collaborative leadership and that's the way many women approach leadership. In the book, Petra offers a tool she has developed over her many years of experience in bringing different (and often difficult) stakeholders together.


10th Innovation Leadership Experienced Event: Humanising Brands
Date: Thursday 3rd & Friday 4th December, 2015
Location: The Amadeus, 50 Shirland Rd. Little Venice London W9 2JA

The end of the year ILF event is fast approaching! This time we will be discussing the many changes that the world of business is going through. The way businesses are springing up and are thriving, the way they are communicating and responding, it makes us stop for a while and wonder – what is the method in this madness? And so we dissect and we explore and we converge. And we come to see that what is true with people is true with brands. The only thing which keeps them going, and brings in them vitality and prosperity is the emotional bonds that they establish. In these one and a half days that we are together, we understand what makes a brand human and we learn how to go about creating this unique identity. There are carefully curated case studies for us to be able to delve into practicalities and co work sessions so we can walk the talk. We invite you to take this journey with us. For more information please click here.

Bridge the Gap II
Date: Thursday 14th January, 2015
Location: Amsterdam

This event will bring to the discussion the power of money and markets, by increasing women’s access to global supply chains and finance. They aim to bring women to the centre of wealth creation. Speakers will share what they have achieved so far and the lessons they learned on the way. To learn more please click here

Hands Women
Date: Wednesday, 2nd, Thursday, 3rd & Friday, 4th of March, 2016
Location: Kazan, Russia

We are very excited for this exhibition which will consist from different collectible creative things, goods of women`s author, which will present 85 regions of Russian Federation, the Commonwealth of Independent States and foreign countries. There will be various of goods more than 180 nationalities of Russian Federation at the exhibition. To find out more please click here.The ILF Wider Community can enjoy 25% discount on the ticket price with the code ILF. Members of the ILF Innovators Anonymous, please get in touch with us for more information on how to claim it your special 30% discount. 

Leadership Excellence and Gender Symposium
Date: Monday 28th, Tuesday, 29th & Wednesday, 20th March, 2016
Location: Purdue University

The purpose of this Symposium is to bring attention to research and evidence-based practice on the creation and sustainment of work, organisational and occupational environments to support gender equality, career success and leader excellence in organisations. They had a call for papers that just ended last week, but it might be worth to get in touch in case you want to collaborate. To learn more about this event click here.


Next Generation Women Leaders Award

McKinsey is doing an incredible job in developing outstanding female leaders. They have published numerous pieces that demonstrate the importance of women in leadership, including Women Matter and the Centered Leadership project. Now they’d like to invite women who want to use their talents to make positive change in their lives and the world we share to submit their work for their awards. You can find all the relevant information here. And hurry up because the deadline for submissions is this Monday, 30th of November. 

Other than our Women's in Innovation insights, we have received a few interesting information from organisations worldwide this week and we think they might be interesting for some of you.

Launch of New Cities Foundation’s new Global Urban Innovators initiative
Every year, the New Cities Foundation selects 15 startups and social enterprises to join their community of Global Urban Innovators. They are looking for cutting edge startups and social enterprises that use technology to address urban challenges in our four focus areas: Urban Mobility, Urban Infrastructure & Services, Health & Wellness and Placemaking. For the launch of this program, they are encouraging all innovators and entrepreneurs to apply.  Please visit their website for details on the application process.  Applications will close on December 23rd, 2015, and the selection of the 2016 Global Urban Innovators will be announced in February 2016. 

2016 WISE Awards
The 2016 WISE Awards will identify, celebrate, and promote six innovative projects for their positive contribution to education and society. The Awards highlight initiatives found to be most creative and effective in finding solutions to education challenges at any level and in all environments. In bringing forward these models, WISE is helping build a network of recognized change-makers to inspire change in education. To find out more about the awards, please click here.  The deadline for submission is the 15th of January
ISPIM Grand Prize
The ISPIM is part of the ILF network, and they have just announced the launch of the Grand Prize 2016, which will recognise the achievements of organisations in the field of Innovation Management. Last year's finalists Cisco, The United States Department of Energy (DOE) and Tata showed us that outstanding innovation management really matters when it comes to creating great products and services. So, whereas it's often the final product or service that makes the headlines, the Grand Prize rewards the outstanding work that innovation professionals do to deliver great innovation. Full details can be found here