An expert in entrepreneurship argues that greater diversity is the key to corporate creativity.

When Riitta Katila looks at old photos or movies about the space program of the 1960s, she sees one common thread among the people depicted there — homogeneity.

The engineers and technicians who first put humans on the moon were, almost without exception, white and male.

While society has come a long way in the decades since, Katila, who is an expert in technology strategy and organizational learning, says there’s still a long way to go. She notes that companies need innovation not only to reach the top, but to stay there. And now more than ever, innovative companies should be hiring, promoting, and listening to a broader range of voices.

The good news is that innovation can be taught. It’s like a recipe, says Katila, who encourages entrepreneurs — even those who have already built successful companies — to seek out mentors who can help them navigate the future. More important, those same entrepreneurs need to proactively identify mentors who can empower their team members to think like innovators too, as Katila tells Stanford Engineering’s The Future of Everything podcast, hosted by bioengineer Russ Altman. You can listen and subscribe here.

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Five hundreds years ago a Spanish physiologist declared that genius was stored in the testicles. Even today, studies have shown that people associate men with genius more than women. Award-winning science writer and broadcaster Angela Saini wants to know why. Saini examines why people are so reluctant to credit intellectual brilliance to women – now and throughout history. Einstein, for instance, needed a woman’s help. She hears about a proposal for making the concept of genius more inclusive and discusses the impact on girls in school when teachers take gender out of classrooms.

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The state of women hangs in the balance

A year and a half into the COVID-19 pandemic, women have made important gains in representation, and especially in senior leadership. But the pandemic continues to take a toll. Women are now significantly more burned out—and increasingly more so than men.

Despite this added stress and exhaustion, women are rising to the moment as stronger leaders and taking on the extra work that comes with this: compared to men at the same level, women are doing more to support their teams and advance diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts. They are also more likely than men to practice allyship. Yet this critical work is going unrecognized and unrewarded by most companies, and that has concerning implications. Companies risk losing the very leaders they need right now, and it’s hard to imagine organizations navigating the pandemic and building inclusive workplaces if this work isn’t truly prioritized.

There is also a disconnect between companies’ growing commitment to racial equity and the lack of improvement we see in the day-to-day experiences of women of color. Women of color face similar types and relative frequencies of microaggressions as they did two years ago—and they remain far more likely than white women to be on the receiving end of disrespectful and “othering” behavior. And while more white employees see themselves as allies to women of color, they are no more likely than last year to speak out against discrimination, mentor or sponsor women of color, or take other actions to advocate for them.

The impact of the last year and half on women is still far from clear. But the risks to women—and the companies that depend on their leadership—are very real.

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Dr. Rory Cooper is the founder and director of the Human Engineering Research Labs (HERL) at the University of Pittsburgh and Department of Veteran Affairs in the United States. From ergonomic push rims (a patented technology that reduces upper extremity pain and injury in wheelchair users) on wheelchairs to robots to assist with lifts and transfers, home automation and prosthetics, there’s no stopping Dr. Cooper – Paralympian, serial inventor, army veteran, engineer, marathon racer. Dr. Cooper discusses his ground-breaking work and the importance of intellectual property (IP) in bringing it to the market.


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Marketing algorithms prevent many women from seeing the advertising, even though it’s illegal to target jobs to one gender.

Women see fewer advertisements about entering into science and technology professions than men do. But it’s not because companies are preferentially targeting men—rather it appears to result from the economics of ad sales. […]

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Authors: Dina Fine Maron

Originally published on Scientific American.

Photo credit: Getty Images as posted on the Scientific American website.

An examination of the prosecution and maintenance histories of approximately 2.7 million US patent applications indicates that women have less favorable outcomes than men.

Full article available here.

Authors: Jyle Jensen, Balazs Kovacs and Olav Sorenson

Published by Nature Biotechnology

Full citation: Jensen, K., Kovács, B. & Sorenson, O. Gender differences in obtaining and maintaining patent rights. Nat Biotechnol 36, 307–309 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1038/nbt.4120

This report compiles existing data on women and patenting. It explores both women’s underrepresentation among patent holders and their relative success in being granted patents when they apply for them. The report identifies the technology classes that women are most likely to patent in, and examines the overall success of patents granted to women as measured by their assignment rates and citation counts. The report draws on the social science literature to identify major obstacles that women face to patenting and, based on the research findings, presents several recommendations to help to close the gender patenting gap. This report was funded by Qualcomm, Inc.

Authors: IWPR (Elyse Shaw, MA, and Halie Mariano)

Published by IWPR.

Innovation is essential for economic growth, prosperity and social progress. However, there is strong evidence of persistent inequality and exclusion of women in the US innovation economy. We develop a framework to map the inventor (patentee) gender gap and identify contexts and catalysts for inclusion. Our approach has three main goals: First, to build inventor inclusivity metrics that capture the presence of women in the flow of new inventors, allowing comparisons across regions, organizations, and individuals. Second, to identify the overall gap between the rate of female new STEM graduates and the rate of female new inventors, emphasizing that the inventor gender gap is more than a supply problem. Third, to understand the variation in inventor inclusivity across top patenting regions, organizations and individuals, providing a window into policy and regional and organizational catalysts for change. […]

Full article available here.

Authors: Mercedes Delgado & Fiona Murray

Published by University of Chicago Press

Full citation: Mercedes Delgado and Fiona Murray, 2021. “Mapping the Regions, Organizations and Individuals that drive Inclusion in the Innovation Economy,” in: Entrepreneurship and Innovation Policy and the Economy, Volume 1, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

Allowing people to pursue their talents and interests is essential to individual well-being, but it also is a crucial part of any market economy. U.S. laws and society too often limit people from developing their potential, harming those individuals and the overall economy in the process. Policies that encourage more equal participation for women and African Americans could boost economic growth, reduce inequality, and power innovation. […]

Full article available here.

Authors: Lisa D. Cook

Published by Washington Center for Equitable Growth.

This report compiles existing data on women and patenting. It explores both women’s underrepresentation among patent holders and their relative success in being granted patents when they apply for them. The report identifies the technology classes that women are most likely to patent in, and examines the overall success of patents granted to women as measured by their assignment rates and citation counts. The report draws on the social science literature to identify major obstacles that women face to patenting and, based on the research findings, presents several recommendations to help to close the gender patenting gap. This report was funded by Qualcomm, Inc.

Authors: IWPR (Jessica Milli, Ph.D., Emma Williams-Baron, Meika Berlan, Jenny Xia, and Barbara Gault, Ph.D.)

Published by IWPR.