by Melissa Bradley
Who Are the Innovators of the Future?
If the US economy desires to get back to a new normal and restore trust and faith in investors and stockholders, then they should invest in women. Women are natural leaders, innovators and entrepreneurs. They are also good investments.
Innovation is a break from previous practice, creating new pathways to solve problems. It often begins with a purpose of discovery. Innovation can take place at the individual, institutional and/or community levels. It requires a willingness to experiment as well as accept failure as a possible output. Innovation requires the innovator to leverage personal and emotional traits, as well as intellectual capacity and strategic rigor. The primary characteristics of the innovator’s mindset are empathetic, problem finder, risk taker, networked, observant, creative, resilient and reflective. While it is true that anyone can be an innovator, there are certain individuals that are more likely than others to be successful innovators: Women!
Historically, women have consistently transformed our world through innovation. Stephanie Kwolek invented Kevlar, which saves lives every day. Katharine Blodgett developed gas masks, deicing of planes and smoke screens; she was the first female hired at GE. Melitta Bentz developed the process of brewing coffee in 1908; the business still remains today.
Women Are Mothers, Leaders, Purchasers and Entrepreneurs
Women have strong analytical skills, know how to create a nurturing environment, can be resilient in the face of setback, and typically do not “do status quo.” More specifically, research shows that women own nearly 8 million businesses in the U.S., accounting for $1.2T of our GDP. We also know that companies with women as members of the board of directors perform better: 66% ROI capital, 3% return on equity, and 42% return on sales. Even more striking is that nearly 1.2 million women are top wealth holders, comprising some 43 percent of Americans with gross assets of $1.5 million or more.
Women Are Leaders, Entrepreneurs and Good Investments
The movement toward gender lens investing has validated the fact that women yield greater economic results, and therefore make greater investments. With a focus on investing in women’s leadership, providing access to capital for women entrepreneurs and investing in products and services that are beneficial to women and girls, gender lens investing is being adopted by major investment banks and brokerage houses. With research noting that that more than 95 percent of women play a role in financial decisions, with one-fourth acting as primary decision-makers, one has to ask: What took so long?
How We Can Advance Women as Economic Drivers Now
As we think about how to support an innovative ecosystem in the U.S., here are some tangible steps to advancing and promoting women as economic drivers:
- Support corporate transparency in reporting their use of women in corporate supply chains
- Request public companies and pension funds to incorporate gender as a priority in investment policy statements
- Support the public disclosure of women in leadership positions at venture capital firms, especially where public funds are invested
- Advocate for the recruitment and placement of women on boards to drive decisions and create value for all
Melissa L. Bradley is the Director of the Sustainable Entrepreneurship and Innovation Initiative and Executive in Residence at Kogod School of Business, American University. She has been a serial entrepreneur and investor focused on financial services, education, technology and media ventures. She has authored three books: Introduction to Media Investing For The Creative and Investment Communities: Business Basics: A Young Entrepreneur’s Guide and A Young Entrepreneur’s Casebook.