In an article about women-friendly innovation in emerging markets, The Economist unpacks the concept of “wominnovation” by examining how societies can harness the power of innovation to empower women and promote greater gender equality. A new study by the International Centre for Research on Women recently examined eight inventions that have helped women dramatically — including mobile phones, micro-credit and motorized scooters. As The Economist points out, these “wominnovations” are comprised of three main elements:
(1) A favorable context, including political, economic and social conditions that make the time right for its adoption, and an innovation system that excels at finding and testing good ideas and quickly scaling them up;
(2) An inherent value proposition that compels women to embrace the innovation;
(3) The inclusion of women in the design process, to ensure that the innovation meets the design and technical requirements of women.
What’s interesting is that some of the “wominnovations” covered in the report were explicitly designed for women, while others were designed for both men and women. The motorized scooter, for example, has disproportionately benefited women: “The scooters, over 60% of which in India are now bought by women, have provided a fairly safe and reliable way for women to travel to more distant places for education and work, greatly increasing their opportunities and productivity.”
More than at any time in history, innovation provides an opportunity to improve the lives of women in new ways. The Economist singles out a few ideas that are taking root in developing markets — like foot-pedaled water pumps, the “micro-franchising” of heating and lighting in rural areas not served by the electric grid and the “crowdsourcing” of work to local communities. Each of these new innovations has the potential to liberate many more poor women in the coming years.
[image: Family Outing by Judepics on Flickr]