Empowering Women at Work: Bringing Women to the Innovation Table

Engaging women through innovation.

Creating a Culture of Innovation and Purpose

Providing employees with the opportunity to participate in and even lead innovation, can enhance their well-being and level of engagement. But more than asking for ideas, when organizations follow through on employee ideas and communicate on actions taken, employees are more likely to participate and engage more with the organization, increasing productivity, a sense of purpose, personal growth, emotional connection to work, and well-being at work. (Hamill, 2019; Raskin, 2018) Co-designing with partners, consumers and even communities, further enables employees to see the impact of their innovations with the goal of enhancing the quality of life for these stakeholders.


The question to ask is how many employees see the opportunity to participate in and lead innovation as a benefit that they value and how many women actually have a seat at the innovation table? Supporting innovation is creativity. Creativity is a skill that can be strengthened over time and is valuable in every position, experience level, and industry. It involves a number of human skills including analyzing situations, being open-minded to ideas and new ways of doing things, being a good communicator to share ideas as well as a good listener-hearing others, asking questions, and listening to other people’s ideas. Many of these skills are ones that women innately possess given the mutiple hats their wear throughout their lives.


How it is then that organizations can inspire and empower women through innovation?


Sustainability provides a powerful opportunity both for women and organizations to thrive and create new value for consumers and our communities. Our experiences at Engaged Thinking and through public and academic partners, suggest that women are already engaged in the discussion on how to live sustainably. Women are adopting a multi-lens perspective when it comes to sustainability-reflecting on the role of climate change and sustainable living on health and well-being, and the impact of responsible consumption on both their footprint as well as financial wellness. We can suggest then that the pathway to engaging women in innovation, should commence with the following discussions to transition back better:

  • Designing better workspaces that enhance the well-being of employees through connections to nature including internal and external spaces; and,

  • Greening the organization including workspaces, water and energy usage, other resource and material usage processes, technology usage, mobility, procurement strategies, and waste management.

Women can effectively lead this discussion within their organizations-reflecting both on their own personal experiences as women living sustainably and as consumers engaged in responsible consumption. In fact, the dual opportunity exists for organizations to include and empower women at the innovation table, and to design sustainable products and services that are well-received by consumers.


Experience and our discussions with women suggest that women are:

  • Increasingly engaged in the sustainability discussion as consumers.

  • Effectively able to see the personal connections to sustainability.

  • Concerned not only about the environmental footprint, but also the social dimensions and impact of organizational activities on the people behind the products and services they use.

  • Willing to take the needed time to conduct research on the products and services they are consuming-looking for evidence of sustainable design.

  • Increasingly using packaging and product information, in addition to apps to learn about products, ingredients, and organizational sustainability practices.

  • Share what they learn about products, services, and organizations with their friends, family and colleagues.

  • Creative in their search for sustainable products and in DIY sustainable innovations for personal usage.

  • Adept at the R opportunities when it comes to end of life product management including reusing, repurposing and upcycling, repairing and recycling-with implications then for circular design.

Given the vast amount of information women offer when in comes to sustainable living and their expectations as consumers for product and service design, it imperative that this knowledge be used within organizations. What better way then by championing women into sustainable innovation and leadership. Designing for the environment necessitates the voice of consumers. With women becoming the primary consumers across a number of product categories, organizations can enjoy cost-effective learning by working with their women employees.


Is your organization ready to bring women to the innovation and leadership table as you craft your sustainability agenda and strategy? We suggest that organizations start by discussing with women, what they view as the best strategy to transition back better.


References:

How to Promote a Culture of Employee Engagement Through Innovation (Raskin, S. 2018).

How Employee Well-Being Drives Innovation At Work, And How Leadership Can Foster It (Hamill, L. 2019).