The fight against global warming would benefit from greater involvement of women
Updated: May 1, 2022
Séverine Le Loarne-Lemaire
Professor of Innovation Management & Strategic Management
Grenoble School of Management (GEM)
Director of the Entrepreneurship Center
IPAG Business School
Andreas Kallmuenzer* (photo)
Professor of Entrepreneurship & Management
Excelia - UGEI
Associate Professor of Entrepreneurship
ESSCA School of Management
Temporary teaching and research assistant (ATER)
Gustave Eiffel University
*Faculty member of the Business Science Institute.
Article originally published on The Conversation France.
With less than 30% of a class of engineers or researchers in the so-called hard sciences, women are largely absent from the technological innovation process. This is a deficit that needs to be made up, but it could be good news for meeting the climate challenge, as women can help speed up the search for innovative solutions. There is therefore room for maneuver.
This is what emerges from our research on the challenges of innovation in the fight against climate change, which has just been published in the journal Technological Forecasting & Social Change. Our analysis is based on a systematic study of the 1,275 articles published since 1975 in the journals ranked in the Harzing List (an aggregate of the different rankings of scientific management journals in the world).
Very productive researchers
First of all, the very good productivity of women who take up this profession has been widely highlighted: more than their male counterparts, women researchers focus on the research question that drives them. Even if it is difficult to formulate a rule applicable to all women, the literature shows that women researchers choose to work on a question that truly motivates them, leaving aside questions that could be worked on for career opportunism or secondary curiosity.
This focus leads her to be more productive, to file more patents and to publish more results. One of the main explanations can be found in the social constraints experienced during their doctoral studies, which would push women to excel: for a long time, women have been discriminated against in obtaining scholarships and in getting their first job.
Also, in a context where it is urgent to find alternative technological solutions to those currently in force to fight against climate change, the sociological posture of women researchers leads them to be more effective.
This efficiency appears all the more notable when it comes to transforming the invention, recorded in a patent, into an innovation. The literature also mentions that women are eager to adopt new technologies when they are perceived as having a social impact. Female researchers are less ambitious to have their invention turned into an innovation than their male counterparts, unless that innovation can help others and fulfill a societal purpose.
Women adopt more useful innovations
On the other hand, this capacity for innovation is present when their work is respected. On the other hand, women are less creative and productive when the work atmosphere is unhealthy.
In view of this social appetence shown by women, we hypothesize that more women researchers motivated by the search for new energy-saving technologies or substitutes for existing technologies can only be productive in their approach.
Women would thus seem to be useful upstream of the innovation process to fight climate change. Their contribution would also seem to be valuable downstream of the process, when the innovation is launched on its market and in the process of being adopted.
We know that the adoption of an innovation remains more a matter of social class than of gender. However, since the 1990s, it has been shown that women have difficulty in adopting innovations that they consider useless - "gadget" innovations, as it were.
If this observation has been made in the case of the adoption of innovations related to information technologies, we hypothesize that more women in the sorting of innovations can help distinguish between those that really contribute to the fight against climate change and those that are superfluous beyond their apparent attractiveness.
All the qualities attributed to women are not intrinsic to their sex but are the result of postures and reactions to discrimination. However, however positive they may be, recent literature highlights persistent signs of discrimination against women, particularly in the innovation process: in hiring for research positions, in promotion to the head of research laboratories, etc.
Moreover, women researchers are reluctant to travel to research conferences far from where they live, which excludes them from the exchange networks that are necessary to generate new opportunities for collaboration and publication and, above all, to access new research positions.
The obstacles that women researchers face are also known to women who participate in companies in the creation and innovation processes: their innovative ideas are rarely adopted in an ideation process; their promotions to management positions, where they may be able to select useful technologies and exclude gimmicky innovations to effectively fight global warming, often appear compromised because of the "glass ceiling".
Therefore, the hypothesis we pose is that the fight against gender discrimination in the economic world seems to be a good way to accelerate the efficiency of a technological innovation process to fight against climate change.
Article translated from French with https://www.deepl.com/translator
Andreas Kallmuenzer's articles on The Conversation France.