The Collaboratory for Women Innovators seeks to inspire, educate, and empower women to attain leadership in all phases of the innovation lifecycle. We offer a variety of programs and experiences to support different goals for participants at various stages of their personal and professional development.
The genesis for the Collaboratory developed as an outgrowth of the successful Empowering Women in Technology Startups program (EWITS). EWITS began in 2012 and provides experiential hands-on entrepreneurial training and skills. The Collaboratory was originally envisioned as a next step in the entrepreneurial process to further support women starting their own companies. However, the mission has expanded to include a focus on increasing participation of female inventors, as well as providing opportunities for women who, although not currently actively pursuing a business startup, may be interested in learning more about innovation, entrepreneurship, and leadership, as well as connecting with other like-minded people.
Diversity is a crucial ingredient for innovation. Approaching problem-solving from unique viewpoints and bringing varied experiences to the table maximizes an organization’s ability to discover the most effective and efficient solutions. Research correlating diversity in leadership with market outcomes shows that companies with diversity out-innovate and out-perform more homogenous companies: diverse companies are 45% more likely to report market share growth and 70% more likely to report that the firm captured a new market. Evidence also demonstrates that including women in executive and board positions results in increased financial performance for organizations and a 2015 study estimated that increasing women’s equality could add $12 trillion to the global GDP by 2025.
However, while national trends show some improvement in gender parity, the data highlights the need for increased intervention strategies if progress is truly a goal. In 2017 Forbes announced that the number of CEOs in its annual Fortune 500 list was at an all-time high, 32. So for this record-breaking year, women represented only 6.4% of the total list. And despite earning degrees at higher rates than men, women are currently significantly under-represented on patent inventions: Less than 15% total, and only 8% as a lead inventor on a patent. The Institute for Women’s Policy Research predicts that without targeted initiatives gender parity in patenting will not occur until 2092.
To fully maximize opportunities diversity needs to be all-inclusive: gender, race, culture, age, sexual orientation, ethnicity … and this list is far from comprehensive. While all these elements are important, here at the Collaboratory we have a specific focus on gender and innovation. That does not minimize the importance of the other variables –- it just provides an opportunity to focus our areas of expertise to try and help increase representation for this population. However, this does not mean that we do not include men in the conversation -– quite the opposite. For gender parity to occur all voices need to be heard and valued. While some of our programming exclusively focuses on women or those who identify as women, the majority of our events and programs are open to all.