Heidi O’Leary, principal consultant from Market Gravity, on the role of gender diversity and women in innovation
Innovation has been the buzzword of 2016 with the launch of hundreds of exciting new products and services from big businesses around the UK but how many of these have been developed and launched by women? All of the Forbes top 20 most innovative companies in the world are led by men and 80 per cent of lead innovation roles in top 20 FTSE companies are held by men. Despite there being multiple initiatives to encourage more women into innovation, such as Innovate UK’s Women in Innovation funding award or Google’s #40forward programme, the vast majority of senior positions still go to men.
Women bring collaboration, openness and inclusion to innovation and they tend to create less competitive and more productive teams and explore wider opinions and factors affecting decisions. Unconscious bias can have unintended consequences on hiring, promotion and investment decisions, which is what is holding many businesses back from having more diverse teams. Awareness, education, open mindedness, building confidence and flexibility, as well as senior women leading by example, are the characteristics that will bring about more diversity within innovation.
Many industries are being disrupted but with diversity and collaboration being key drivers of innovation success, it’s important to ensure teams contain a mixture of men and women from all backgrounds, disciplines and age groups. We want to foster a sense of inclusion and open mindedness among the current and next generation of innovators and business leaders, encouraging women to be confident in pitching their ideas, leading teams and delivering exciting new products and services, wherever they may work.
Policies such as shared parental leave go some way to help balance child care with career progression but in the first year since its introduction, only one per cent of eligible male workers had taken it. And concepts such as the ‘glass cliff’ reinforce stereotypical views of female leaders.
The team at Market Gravity specialises in innovation; creating and launching new propositions and ventures for some of the world’s largest companies. We have several senior females, working with and managing teams working across a range of sectors, including fintech and banking, retail, utilities and automotive. We embrace diverse teams, with both women and men, people from different backgrounds, countries and educational disciplines as we feel this is what really drives creativity and innovation.”
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