Women and innovation – what’s the problem?

What significance does gender have in innovation systems and innovation processes?

What significance does gender have in innovation systems and innovation processes?

Norut has studied this question in co-operation with three other Norwegian research institutes.

The objective of the project was to study how competence and innovation are connected in different ways to understandings of gender, as well as how such understandings influence participation in the innovation processes.

Norut Alta-Áltá co-operated with Nordland Research Institute in Bodø, the International Research Institute Stavanger (IRIS) and the Work Research Institute (AFI) in Oslo.

Focus on male-dominated industries
The research project concludes that both innovation studies and innovation funding focus on industries dominated by men, both as owners and employees. Examples of such industries are energy, oil and gas, maritime and ICT.

Our findings show that the units of measurement that are used to document innovation, for example the number of patents, cannot measure innovation in service industries. Consequently, industries dominated by men emerge as more innovative, and men emerge as more innovative than women.

More money for male-dominated industries
When innovation studies are mostly carried out in male-dominated industries, we get a narrow definition of what innovation is. This in turn controls both researchers and funding agencies. Male-dominated industries get the most financial support and attention through public schemes, but an important part of the society’s innovation potential is not exploited or developed further.

The concept of innovation
The project concludes that we need to develop our understanding of what innovation is, among researchers and funding agencies alike.
The researchers suggest that a broader definition of innovation is required, and that gender must be included in studies of innovation. One can, for example, study how gender is expressed in the actual innovation processes or why there are so few women who take patents.

The project was managed by Elisabet Ljunggren from the Nordland Research Institute. The full report from the research project on gender and innovation is available on the Nordland Research Institute’s website.
Norut Alta-Áltá’s work has been headed by Trine Kvidal.