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  • Writer's pictureAbigail Nwakanma

Gender Mainstreaming: Reducing the Gap between Men and Women in Innovation

Innovation thrives on diversity, yet women remain underrepresented among inventors and innovators globally. While explanations like a lack of female interest in STEM fields don't hold water, since statistics show that women earn more bachelor's and master's degrees in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) than men, other factors contribute significantly to the disparity. They include family background, societal dictates that limit women to caregiving responsibilities, work environment and culture, amongst others.  


Key words: Gender, Gender Mainstreaming, STEM, Innovation, Technology, Policy, Gender gap. 





Goal 5 of the Sustainable Development Goals aims to bridge the gulf of inequality between men and women in various sectors and innovation is no exception. Innovation and technology seldom benefit women and men equally, and this gender gap constrains efforts to achieve women’s empowerment and prevents women from becoming both developers and consumers of technology that addresses their needs. Adopting a gender-responsive approach to innovation means going beyond acknowledging the need for gender equality in innovation, and acting throughout the innovation cycle to ensure that women play a key role at every phase.  


Why Does it Matter? 

It has been suggested that GM combines gender equality and mainstreaming and is the reorganization, improvement, development, and evaluation of policy processes that ensures that a gender equality perspective with sound assumptions, processes, and results is in all policies. According to a 2019 publication by UN Women titled ‘Innovation for Gender Equality’, gender innovation principles should, as their primary objective, create a space where members can share tools, lessons learned and rapidly push forward innovative practices. 

Beyond the ethical imperative, there's a strong economic argument for gender mainstreaming in innovation. Studies show companies with greater gender diversity are more innovative and profitable. Here's why: 


  • Untapped Potential: Women bring fresh perspectives, leading to more creative solutions. 

  • Better Market Understanding: Including women in the innovation process ensures products and services better address the needs of the entire market. 

  • Talent Acquisition: A commitment to gender equality attracts top talent from a wider pool. 



How Can We Make This Happen? 

Several strategies can be implemented to achieve gender mainstreaming in innovation: 

  • Unconscious Bias Training: Educating teams about unconscious bias helps them make fairer decisions. 

  • Mentorship Programs: Connecting women with experienced mentors provides valuable guidance and support. 

  • Funding for Female-Led Startups: Providing access to capital is crucial for women entrepreneurs. 

  • Gender-Balanced Leadership: Seeing women in leadership roles inspires future generations and fosters a more inclusive environment.  

 

Unfortunately, national policies often fail to address gender equality in Science, Technology, and Innovation (STI). This knowledge gap hinders efforts to understand women's role in development, recognize their challenges as innovators, and appreciate their potential contributions to research and development. This lack of understanding translates to weak national innovation systems and hinders global competitiveness. 

Models for Integrating Gender into STI Policies 

Several actionable steps can be taken to integrate gender mainstreaming STI policies. Some of them as proposed at the Fifty-fifth session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women in 2011 include: 

  1. Integrating Gender Throughout Policy Making: Considering both men's and women's experiences at every stage. 

  1. Institutional Capacity Building: Ensuring organizations have the resources to implement gender mainstreaming effectively. 

  1. Continuous Monitoring: Regularly assessing the impact of policies on gender equality. 

In a nutshell, by embracing gender mainstreaming, we can unlock the full potential of innovation. It's about creating a future where everyone can contribute and thrive. Let's bridge the innovation gap and unleash a wave of groundbreaking innovation for all. Share your thoughts! How can we further promote gender equality in innovation? 

 



REFERENCES: 

Huyer, Sophia (2015). “Is the gender gap narrowing in science and engineering”. In: UNESCO science report: towards 2030, pp. 85–103. 


Martinez, Gema Lax, Julio Raffo, Kaori Saito, et al. (2016). Identifying the gender of PCT inventors. Vol. 33. WIPO. 


True, J. (2010). Gender matters in global politics: A feminist introduction to international relations, Gender and Development, 18(3), 189-203. https://doi.org/10.4324/9780203864944.


UKIPO (2016). Gender profiles in worldwide patenting: An analysis of female


inventorship. Tech. rep. — (2019). Gender profiles in worldwide patenting: An analysis of female inventorship. Tech. Rep. 


WIPO (2023). The Global Gender Gap in Innovation and Creativity: An International Comparison of the Gender Gap in Global Patenting over Two Decades. Development Studies Series. World Intellectual Property Organization, Geneva, Switzerland. 



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