Women Innovators are needed to foster sustainable development

dwedutvvoaaw4wcThe 62nd Commission on the Status of Women is meeting at the United Nations in New York from 12 to 23rd March. To honor the event, we are sharing some insights about women, development, and entrepreneurship, based on related events organized by UN Women, the Nordic Innovation House, Innovation Norway, and SAP.

We live in the world of complexities. This is illustrated by the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). At the same time, and maybe for the first time, these goals are guiding the way for sustainability that is created in public-private partnerships, with innovation and different kinds of businesses. Companies are embracing the SDGs as their roadmap for opportunities to develop their products and services that, apart from profit,  also “do good”.

In this context, it is not hard to grasp why gender equality and women’s participation is crucial for sustainability and development – and for good business. For instance, today’s technology industry is still very much dominated, and created, by young(ish) men. Women are needed not only as sources for design ideas but as coders, designers, and CEOs to bring diversity, and hence better products and services, to different customers and users.

In many contexts in the Global South, there are practices, informal “grassroots innovations”, for instance in the legal and  finance sector, that women have created. These practices could now inform technology-based innovation and make it work for those outside of the traditional banking and financial systems. But often women’s roles in the sphere of the private hinder their opportunities to participate in the marketplace, especially for those women in the range of the ages of 18 to 34 years who are amongst the poorest populations in the world. That is the age when they bear children and stay at home.

Even in the Global North, with culturally different climates, and access to support mechanisms such as childcare, women’s participation in innovation, technology, and business sectors is not a given. Women innovators and entrepreneurs need not only capital but also formal and informal networks, the latter often being given for men but excluding women. And, as one women entrepreneur noted, women need to understand that they do not need to be superhuman. The field of technology, especially, has for long seemed technical, difficult, and unachievable to many. To enter the world of startups, innovation, and technology means you are willing to try, not that you are perfect.

This all is why the UN Women has launched the Global Innovation Coalition for Change. The Coalition will:

  • Build market awareness of the potential for innovations developed by women that meet the needs of women and girls.
  • Identify the key barriers to women and girl’s advancement in innovation, technology and entrepreneurship; and
  • Work collaboratively to identify and take actions to address these barriers and needs at an industry-wide level.

Its partners range from SAP and Sony to Facebook and LinkedIn:

 

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