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  • Series: Research Handbooks in Business and Management series x
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Gry Agnete Alsos, Ulla Hytti and Elisabet Ljunggren

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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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Teita Bijedić, Siegrun Brink, Kerstin Ettl, Silke Kriwoluzky and Friederike Welter

The existing data regarding gender and innovation show that women are less likely to carry out technologically based product and process innovations than men. This chapter presents some empirical evidence for Germany and proposes several conceptual explanations for these findings. With this, the chapter contributes to explaining gender-dependent differences regarding innovative behaviour based on the different contextual factors that foster and perpetuate, for example, traditional role expectations. These role expectations – among other aspects of the institutional framework (in particular with regard to tax and family policies) – have an impact on the development of various individual preferences regarding educational and professional choices and vice versa. Based on the authors’ exploratory evidence, the chapter concludes that women are not less innovative as such but that a combination of institutional constraints and traditional role models contributes to them self-selecting into female-typed professions and working structures, such as part-time work.

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Ruta Aidis

Women have been innovating alongside men, yet their innovations have largely remained overlooked or discounted, often because the innovation has been less disruptive or has focused on female-dominated activities such as services and household production. But historically, even when innovative activity by women has been disruptive, it has often gone unnoticed. This chapter takes a closer look at three highly successful innovative female entrepreneurs in Latin America. The chapter analyses the case of Leila Velez in Brazil, co-founder and CEO of Beleza Natural, an innovative beauty institute chain. It analyses the case of Maria Claudia Mendez in Bolivia, founder of Origenes Bolivia, which specializes in creating upmarket fashion and household accessories made from alpaca and other natural fibres. It also analyses the case of Carolina Guerra in Colombia, co-founder of Ingerecuperar, a hazardous waste treatment and recycling company. By exploring their business developments, the chapter uncovers some of the gendered impediments that exist for innovative women in the Latin American context. Some of the examples are universal, while others are clearly linked to the specificities of the Latin American environment.

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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.

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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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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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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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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.