Lessons from Mother’s Day: Women as Innovators

On Mother’s Day, society celebrates mothers as nurturing and loving members of the family – often overlooked and underappreciated. Every day should celebrate the grand strides of mothers as familial and societal innovators. Raising children takes immense creativity, tenacity, and persistence. Mothers regularly craft and employ inventions to soothe a crying newborn, entertain a child, or tend to an unwell teenager. Mothers are the backbone of families but also of society. 

All women including those that are mothers possess a distinctive talent and genius. Peace agreements that involve women are 64% less likely to flop. According to a study of Fortune 1000 companies by Karen Rubin, women-led businesses secured shareholders a 340% investment return. Women rank higher in emotional intelligence and the ability to collaborate.

You would think women would be leading men in innovation. Yet on the global scale females place significantly behind our male counterparts as inventors and creators.  

Now more than ever women are needed to restore the world to health from the COVID-19 pandemic as well as to contribute inventions that better society. We must solve the specific barriers that limit women’s ability to reach their fullest potential as inventors and creators. To do so, the international community should: 

  • Expand Women’s Access to Land Ownership:
    Improving women’s access to secure land titles enhances female economic empowerment and poverty reduction as well as incentivizes innovation. Less than half of the countries in the world allow women to access land titles. Women represent 60% to 80% of the agricultural workforce yet only own 20% of the land around the globe. Land titles allow females to maintain the full value of their assets which directly incentivizes developing innovative businesses and surges economic growth. Land rights have a positive correlation to sustainable development. According to an article by the World Resource Institute, women with protected property rights in particular countries earn up to 3.8 times more income, increase individual savings by 35%, lessen the likelihood of malnourished children by 33%, and augment investment into education. Moreover, women’s access to secure land ownership breaks a vicious cycle of unequal opportunity to assist females in developing their fullest potential as creators of the household and society.

 

  •  Boost Women’s Access to Intellectual Property:
    Bridging the gender equality gap in intellectual property rights values women as creators and incentivizes them to contribute their unique perspectives to solve pressing problems. The WIPO notes that women encompass 16.5% of international patent applications in 2020 and estimates equality for PCT-listed inventors will be achieved in 2058. According to the USPTO, U.S. women inventors account for 17.3% of patent holders in 2019. Even with a small representation of patent holders, women produce ground-breaking inventions ranging from the dishwasher, the medical syringe, the electric refrigerator, space station batteries, to stem cell isolation. Most recently, female physician and scientist, Özlem Türeci, led her company BioNTech in developing the first-of-its-kind mRNA technology for COVID-19 vaccines. More than half of the workforce for this Germany-based biotechnology company are women. Globally, women make up 70% of the healthcare force to fight against COVID-19. Nevertheless, sociocultural prejudices against women and structural barriers such as restrictions to ownership of assets and limited collaboration in the patent approval process constrain this group from developing talents as innovators. Boosting and encouraging women to secure innovations by trademark, copyrights, and patents respects females as creators to pursue patent titles that produce major strides to tackle the world’s most pressing issues.

 

  •  Improve Women’s Social Rights:
    Improving women’s social rights like freedom of movement and workplace rights have a direct correlation to women’s access to property rights – both physical and intellectual. The International Property Rights Index of 2020 utilizing Gender Equality (GE) ranked Finland (8.772), Switzerland (8.692), New Zealand (8.615), Australia (8.560), Netherlands (8.484), and Norway (8.481), the top five countries bridging the gender gap. The U.S. ranked in 13th place with a score of 8.292. Strong legal and political frameworks in Europe and Oceania break down socio-cultural constructs of women as inferior and incentivizes females to express themselves as innovators. Whereas, in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), women’s access to land ownership, credit loans, and intellectual property as well as the freedom to travel abroad and drive is viewed as taboo. Only 45.26% of MENA countries embrace gender disparities in property and inheritance laws. Migrant workers that are women often face exploitation. The IPRI includes some of these countries in the bottom 20 percentile of the GE score. Moreover, shattering the glass ceiling for women to own property through improving women’s social rights will respect and encourage women to pursue their distinctive talents as innovators. 

 

Moving ahead from Mother’s Day, all women – those that are mothers and those that are not – continue to contribute their talents as nurturers and collaborators to solve society’s most urgent matters like the pandemic. Bridging the physical and intellectual property gap for women is critical for females to be respected as inventors and to contribute their unique perspectives to a better society for both men and women as demonstrated. Expanding women’s access to land ownership, boosting access to intellectual property, and improving social rights will not only fully value women but lead to innovative breakthroughs. Halting the “lost” innovations of women is critical as we navigate an increasingly turbulent world.

 

Photo Credit: Flickr