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Lene Foss and Colette Henry

This chapter critically explores how gender is conceptualized in extant innovation research scholarship. The authors analyse a selection of published research articles, categorizing them according to the various themes adopted: traditional innovation and definitional issues; management styles, performance and teams; organisational structures and networks; and gendered stereotypes, feminist resistance, and gendered processes of innovation. The chapter also considers how researchers define innovation, and how they illustrate the relationship between gender and innovation. Findings indicate that published scholarship in this field lacks a robust discussion of the relationship between gender and innovation, with few articles positioning themselves within specific gender perspectives. The field has become restricted to the extent that only male innovation norms are studied and highlighted. The authors conclude that innovation research is lagging behind in terms of its perspectives on how gender is ‘done’, compared to other fields such as entrepreneurship where feminist epistemology is more developed. Avenues worthy of future research are identified.

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Shruti R. Sardeshmukh and Ronda M. Smith

Innovation is a crucial capability in today’s marketplace, and it is clear that employees are the source of organizational innovation. Effective pursuit of innovation requires that organizations leverage the benefits of their workforce diversity by embracing novel ideas coming from all their employees. Women form nearly half of the workforce, and yet female employees’ innovative ideas are often invisible. Bringing together literature from diversity and innovation, the chapter conceptually identifies structural and social barriers that can hinder female employees’ innovative activity in the two phases of the innovation process – idea generation and idea implementation. Based on diversity management literature, the chapter recommends gender-conscious practices that can be implemented in organizations. By incorporating gender and diversity management concepts in the innovation literature, the chapter contributes to the broader innovation research agenda and to the gender literature.

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Gry Agnete Alsos, Ulla Hytti and Elisabet Ljunggren

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Malin Lindberg and Knut-Erland Berglund

There is a perceived need for more conceptual studies to better understand gendered aspects of innovation, which this chapter addresses by investigating to what extent social innovation studies could enrich gendered innovation studies and vice versa, owing to their similarities and differences in scope and depth, in a way that helps the understanding and promoting of gender-inclusive innovation policy, research and practice. The conceptual study exposes four mutually reinforcing potentials, including the establishment of new institutions alongside transforming the existing ones, making an explicit distinction between inclusiveness in the process of developing innovation and in the results of innovation processes, acknowledging and including a wider spectrum of actors, industries, sectors and innovations as relevant to innovation policy, research and practice, and making a specification of distinct social ends of gender-inclusive innovation. This motivates the establishment of ‘gendered social innovation’ as a new research stream.

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Selma Martins, Emília Fernandes and Regina Leite

Nowadays, innovation is being associated with the service sector. Such a trend leads the authors of this chapter to question how gendered discourses are used to define innovation by a group of entrepreneurs in nursing care. These two practices are constituted by different gender meanings: nursing is considered to have a feminine nature and to be almost exclusively a female-dominated occupation; entrepreneurship is considered a masculine practice and is traditionally associated with men. Based on the content analysis of interviews with nurse-entrepreneurs, the chapter demonstrates how innovation can be inscribed in feminine meanings such as ‘caring’ and ‘nurturing’, and related to new ways of ‘service delivery’. However, these new conceptions of innovation are presented as gender-neutral. The chapter reflects upon how such an understanding of innovation can contribute to challenging or reproducing gender inequality.

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Trine Kvidal-Røvik and Birgitte Ljunggren

This chapter deals with gendered understandings of innovation, and distribution of power and influence in the innovation arena. Based in a perspective in line with governmentality and discourse theory, the chapter analyses the innovation concept as articulated by the Norwegian Programme for Regional R & D and Innovation (VRI), and discusses gendered consequences of these understandings. Findings point to how articulations of innovation in VRI policy are framed by a neo-liberal governmentality, reproducing essentialist gender assumptions. Women are legitimized as participants in innovation mainly by means of being different from men. The understandings of innovation in VRI represent a type of theoretical path-dependency that brings policy into a ‘lock-in’, shutting off other premises for inclusion as well as alternative perspectives on why it might be good to innovate.

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Seppo Poutanen and Anne Kovalainen

By revisiting specific conceptual tools, the chapter offers a novel understanding of the innovation and invention processes that take place in gendered organizations. Through a rich and detailed empirical case study the authors analyse two established theoretical concepts in gender studies, ‘tokenism’ and ‘intersectionality’, and add important new theoretical dimensions to them. The chapter argues for contextualized knowledge when inventing and innovations are being studied. Through an empirical case narrative the authors show how invention and innovation processes intersect with a gendered and tokenist career path.

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Nina Amble, Paula Axelsen and Liv Karen Snerthammer

Care work is typically women’s work. Only a third of the staff on the wards hold a full-time position in Norway. Experience shows that the rota system is the starting point for unwanted part-time work, too small a workload and dissatisfaction at work. The empirical basis for this chapter is an R & D project called the Rota System as Innovation. The purpose of using the concept of innovation was two-fold: partly to draw attention to women’s work and working time arrangements as a relevant and important innovation arena, and partly to use the energy of such a term within this sector to increase awareness about the innovation by creating a full-time culture in this kind of work. The results are related to developing new knowledge, a new rota system, and experience of using the concept of innovation as a tool for promoting change.

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Malin Lindberg, Eira Andersson, Lisa Andersson and Maria Johansson

Using forestry and mining as empirical cases, the chapter analyses to what extent gender equality efforts in men-dominated industries can be understood as organizational innovations and how the degree of newness in these efforts affects the prospects of evoking structural changes in the gendered patterns of these industries. In the studied gender-equality efforts in one major forestry company and one major mining company in Sweden, carried out during the last ten years, innovative measures of creative workshops, cooperation with gender researchers, and challenging masculinities are identified. Their level of contextual innovativeness is high, although their universal innovativeness is low. The gendered aspects of the innovativeness encompass identification of hitherto unmet needs of gender equality among individuals, organizations and society to some extent. The prospects of the measures evoking structural change in a transformative way vary, with challenging masculinities exposing the highest potential, but only if thoroughly realized.

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Malin Tillmar

This chapter argues that mainstream perspectives on innovation are not only gender-biased, in several dimensions, but also context-biased and ethnocentric. The chapter reports from qualitative studies on the innovations occurring in the mundane everyday life of urban female SME owners in the three large countries of the East African Community, that is, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. The selected cases from these studies illustrate the innovativity that is exercised, even required, by these women simply to sustain the livelihood of themselves and their families. Although the phenomenon of frugal and reverse innovation is gaining more and more ground in the literature, this everyday innovativeness of women in emerging economies, for example the East African, has yet to receive adequate attention.