Did you know that only 5% of Canadian tech companies have a female founder or CEO! Or that women make up only 13% of tech executive personnel, and the majority (53%) have no women at all! With International Women’s Day approaching this week, the DRiVE team is proud to share the work we are doing to support women and innovation!
Our team has explored many different factors that support the development of Regional Health Innovation Ecosystems (RHIEs), where the focus is on novel and innovative solutions to the challenges faced by the health sector, particularly those related to our aging population. We know that people are central to RHIEs. That includes scientists and graduate students, knowledge workers, health professionals, entrepreneurs, and even engaged and knowledgeable volunteers, patients and their families. Our work has shown that the people and their networks play a central part in the success of that system. Diversity is a key driver of innovation and a diverse and inclusive workforce attracts the best and brightest talent. The absence of women in key disciplines such as engineering and computing science, and then their knock-on absence in critical industry and entrepreneurial activities has negative consequences on the economic vitality of Canada.
This matters!! It particularly matters in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics) industries where despite decades of affirmative action and programs to attract women into some disciplines and academic programs, the numbers of women remains frustratingly low.
Yet we shouldn’t be surprised. Our policies and support for young women who want to raise a family while pursuing their professional dreams remain stubbornly inadequate. Researchers from the DRiVE team have interviewed experts from health innovation ecosystems around the world who talk about how resilient women handily advancing through postdoctoral work, only to find the challenges as a junior faculty completely at odds with starting a family. Or women entrepreneurs who generate innovative ideas, pull together a talented team and pitch for angel funding, yet who fail to attract VC funding because they don’t fit the normal profile.
The DRiVE is part of an international partnership of women working together on a project called, “REGiNE” (an international research consortium looking at how regional ecosystems are impacting women’s participation in innovation and entrepreneurship). This project follows on the heels of last year’s successful WEiRED (Women Entrepreneurs, Innovators, and Regional Ecosystem Development) workshop that brought together international researchers, government and industry representatives, start-up founders, and students to discuss new areas of research that will advance women’s entrepreneurship and innovation.
REGiNE is particularly interested in starting conversations about innovation and entrepreneurship in “feminized” sectors such as healthcare, where the number of women in the workforce is high and yet their participation in tech entrepreneurship is low.
International Women’s Day is all about celebrating gender parity – about celebrating what we’ve achieved. But there is much work remaining. The DRiVE team salutes those women (and men) who have championed the cause for workforces that better represent our Canadian reality and that we know will propel Canada to the front of the global innovation stage in the future.