On the hunt for hidden innovative power

2019-10-11

Through an increased focus on gender equality and diversity in its operations, UU Innovation wants to design a more inclusive innovation support that attracts women in the same extention as men.

Significantly more men than women apply for support from UU Innovation to utilise their research results. Despite this, the gender distribution is generally equal among the University's researchers.
“Here, we have an opportunity to broaden our support so we can capture the innovative power of women as well,” says business advisor Hillevi Englund, who leads the unit’s gender equality initiative.

Uppsala University as a whole strives to always apply a gender equality perspective in its regular operations. As part of UU Innovation’s operational development, Hillevi Englund and her colleagues have mapped out the status of the ideas that the unit has helped to develop since 2012. The numbers speak for themselves – three-fourths of those who apply for UU Innovation’s support for an idea are men, while one-fourth are women. This skewed distribution of idea influx has been consistent over the years.

“Naturally, we want our support system to be as inclusive as possible and for more people to want to work with us to develop their ideas – regardless of gender, academic title or disciplinary domain,” says Hillevi Englund.

What do you mean by “idea”?

“To us, an idea is anything from a first thought about a product or service to a research result, knowledge asset, method, or invention that you believe could benefit others. You do not need much else to come to us for advice.”

The gender equality initiative at UU Innovation has been named Agenda 50/50. While still in its infancy, it has a clear goal – gender equality in utilisation to increase innovative power. As its first steps, UU Innovation will explore how operations can be improved to encourage more researchers to accept help in developing an idea or a research result.

“It can be a matter of word choice, what message we communicate, and ensuring that we include breadth and diversity when presenting our activities to researchers and students. It can also be a matter of what knowledge our target audience has about our support. Research can be utilised in many ways, and it is our role to show the possibilities.”

A long-term work

Hillevi Englund points out that the mapping does not give any indication of why idea influx is skewed, only that it is skewed. The plan now is for UU Innovation to try to find ways to attract more people, and to follow up the mapping with another measurement next year.

“Naturally, this is nothing that can be changed with the flip of a switch, but the gender equality perspective is important. Let's look at a heart attack as an example. The symptoms differ between men and women. If diagnosis only focused on men’s symptoms, then women’s heart attacks would be missed, which would obviously have serious consequences. In order to overcome the challenges of both today and tomorrow, we need breadth to our perspective and experiences!”

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