Are men more innovative than women (and does it matter)?


Before we start exploring gender differences in the context of innovation, let me say that there is nothing I believe in more than the wisdom of the American Indian Irokese Tribe who knew that “It will take all of us to save us”.

However, while there does indeed seem to be a growing consensus among companies worldwide that gender diversity and equality is an imperative both from an ethical and a business perspective - are you aware that one of McKinsey’s core themes is ‘Women in the economy’ - reality still shows a different picture; to quote from an article published in The Guardian December 2013 “Yet women are still less likely than men to be associated with leadership positions in the UK: they account for 22% of MPs and peers, 20% of university professors, 6.1% of FTSE 100 executive positions, and 3% of board chairpersons. Income inequality has risen faster in the UK than any other OCED country and today women earn on average £140,000 less than men over their working careers.” At the same time I believe that there is something about the wider context of the 21st century that calls for a stronger presence of attitudes and behaviours commonly more associated with women, such as being caring, collaborative, involving, future oriented. In fact, when Harvard Business School professors John Gerzema and Michael D’Antonio asked 64,000 individuals from 13 countries about the top 10 desirable leadership qualities for the 21st century, then followed up asking about half that number to classify 125 different human characteristics as either masculine, feminine or neither, they found that 8 out of the 10 leadership qualities were viewed as female.

While there are also many who hold the view that men are more creative than women - as represented in this article from the Huffington Post - there are others, such as Adi Gaskell, who points out flaws in this generalisation. Adi quotes a study from 2013 which revealed that women have as many ideas as men, but their ideas are often not taken seriously or listened to with the same attention as those of their male counterparts. It also emerged that these ideas were given less support to bring them to fruition. In part this may have to do with the way women communicate; women tend to be apologetic, and use many qualifiers which undermines our argument and credibility. Looking at actions rather than words, it seems though that women do rather well when it comes to entrepreneurship! Which is why Kevin O’Leary, Canadian entrepreneur and Shark in the American ‘Shark Tank’ television show, prefers to invest in women. In a recent interview he pointed out that all of his successful investments were run by women, attributing their success to superior time and risk management skills. One last point, whether women ‘are living up’ to traditional stereotypes or not very much depends on the context and what kind of behaviour and performance is ‘expected’ by their friends, family, society. Authors Adam Galinsky and Maurice Schweitzer believe that power differentials are the underlying driver for gender differences.


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