To celebrate International Women’s Day on Sunday 8th March, we take a look at how women can harness innovation to their advantage, and use the experience from successful female role models to fuel their drive and establish themselves as leaders in the world of business.
In the face of gender inequality, the struggle for women to make their mark with new ventures is a continuing battle. In fact, the Deputy CEO of Natwest, Alison Rose, compiled a report on female entrepreneurship and found that for every 10 male entrepreneurs in the UK, there are fewer than five female entrepreneurs. The same report also uncovered that female-owned enterprises represent less than 25% of businesses in the UK’s five most productive sectors.
So what can be done to encourage the growth of female innovation?
Innovate UK initiated their Women in Innovation campaign, which aims to get more women innovating in business and to showcase the inspirational women who are breaking the mold, challenging industry norms, and achieving their business ambitions. As part of their campaign, Innovate UK acknowledge that the most disruptive innovation can only occur when a diverse group of ideas and minds come together. This involves ensuring that women’s voices are heard in the grander arena of the business world. This is more important than ever, as research has shown that male entrepreneurs are 86% more likely to secure venture funding than their female counterparts.
With stats like these, it can be easy for women to feel like they’re fighting a losing battle. However, in the midst of these challenges, there are substantial numbers of inspirational women making waves in the world of business with their innovative thinking and creative concepts. And it’s something that you can do, too – no matter on what scale.
In order to master innovation, it’s vital to actually break down what it means in the first place. We all know that innovation has become a buzzword in recent years. As a result, you may typically believe that being a successful innovator requires you to be fearless, run your own company, or be someone who has established themselves as a leading driver of change in their industry.
However, those are just the people we hear about.
Innovation isn’t just those grandiose ideas that impact society. It can simply be about finding better ways of doing things. So, don’t be put off; while some people may not believe themselves to be innovative, we all have great ideas brimming in our brains. Being able to implement these ideas is all part of the process – and it’s these small changes to our everyday routines that makes innovation an ever-present element in our lives.
Innovation can blossom in any industry – it’s all about embracing change, always questioning why things are done a certain way and looking at new, creative ways to find solutions.
Innovative feats tend to stem from creativity. While it can sometimes feel as though your creativity levels are at a low (or you simply feel it’s not your strength) there are plenty of useful techniques to help boost your creative brain power. Mind Mapping, in particular, is a powerful and versatile technique to help you get your ideas flowing, allowing you to capture and build on ideas as its branches replicate the natural thinking processes of your brain. For innovation to truly come to fruition, this creativity then needs to be balanced with strategy; having a clear plan in place for your ideas to become a reality is what will take your latest idea or venture to the next stage.
However, grand and creative ideas don’t just strike continuously throughout the day. So always be sure to question each decision and process that you’re working on. Ask yourself “Why are we using this system?” or “Is there a way we can do this better?” – it’s this type of thinking where truly innovative gems of inspiration can be born, helping to make innovative thinking a seamless part of your routine.
Pulling together the creativity and input of those around you is also vital in helping you stay on track towards your goals. Work together with other women in your life to motivate and inspire each other to keep pushing forward to achieve great things – whether it’s a new business venture, taking the lead on a project or simply continuing to let your specialist skills shine in your organization.
Innovation all comes down to you and your ideas. You don’t have to establish yourself on a global scale to still make an impact – but having inspirational and relatable role models to look up to and be inspired by can be just the boost you need to make that first step.
Last year, Innovate UK awarded funding and support to 9 of the UK’s most innovative female-led businesses as part of its Women in Innovation campaign. The inspiring women who made the final list span a huge range of industries, from design to manufacturing. Sheana Yu, founder and CEO of Aergo, launched a wheelchair seating system which uses air cells to ensure the user remains comfortable and supported. Also on the list is Alex Haslehurst, co-founder and CTO of Vitrue Health, a tool which helps clinicians assess patient health (particularly motor function) more effectively.
Alex Haslehurst, co-founder and CTO, Vitrue Health
Seeing the exceptional work that is being carried out by these women, and beyond, goes to prove the impact women are making in their industries every year. Many are challenging the status quo and bringing something new and dynamic to the mix. It’s these famous innovators who have made a large impact in their field that can help to inspire us all to go that extra mile in our own lives – even by simply voicing your suggestions for change, or working on something more ‘out of the box’ that you think will drive results.
To help increase the number of women in innovation, having successful role models is key to help keep you motivated and driven to succeed. They are the lights to show us what is possible, and give us the belief that our ideas and work can truly make an impact. With more and more women looking to make their mark with innovative new concepts, being able to inspire younger generations of girls to challenge their thinking and learn new skills that will help them to excel is vital – after all, it’s these girls who will help to form the leaders of tomorrow.
Greta Thunberg is a great example of someone who can help to inspire young girls to truly believe in the power of their voice. A Swedish environmental activist, Thunberg addresses the need for immediate action against climate change. Her strong stance and direct nature when voicing her views, particularly from such a young age, sparked a movement of support as she began to establish her voice on the world stage.
As well as giving young girls the confidence to push their values and ideas forward, encouraging them to develop skills and find interest in industries that are typically male-dominated will help to bring that much-needed diversity, as discussed by Innovate UK, to these industries. In 2015, non-profit organization, Code.org, launched a new way to encourage girls to get interested in code. They teamed up with Disney to create a coding tutorial using Disney’s Frozen heroines, Elsa and Anna. The tutorial taught kids to write basic code that would enable the princesses to ice skate around their computer screens.
This is innovation at its core, as the company challenged the notion that it’s not enough to simply teach girls how to code. In an industry that predominantly appeals to boys, with a large focus on video game coding, this was a step to get girls interested in what they can create with code beyond this and spark their imagination for what is possible in this field.
With so many women driving forward innovative businesses, having the tools to bring your ideas to life will make your innovation journey that little bit easier. Ayoa combines Mind Mapping with Task Management and collaboration features – so you can explore and develop your best ideas, then turn these into actionable tasks that you can track and manage from start to finish.