20.08.2008 | Women and Innovation – An Answer to the European Economic Malaise?
As the first decade of the 21st century draws to a close, it is increasingly evident that innovative solutions to the challenges facing the global economy and society are needed in order to propel growth in today’s knowledge-based economies. This was underscored on Monday when French Prime Minister François Fillon called his economic ministers back from their summer holiday for an emergency session to work out a meaningful way for France and the rest of Europe to co-ordinate its response to the eurozone’s growing economic malaise. Fillon said there was no need for a new domestic plan to re-launch France’s stuttering economy. He said investing more public money would “solve no purpose” – the only answer was to continue with structural reform.
Women are, and will become, an even greater force in the economy as societies, companies and national governments focus on ways to increase women’s engagement in science and technology, knowledge creation, knowledge transfer and the digital future. A 2007 study by McKinsey and Company entitled “Women Matter” highlighted an important fact: Europe can expect a shortfall of 24 million people in the active workforce by 2040. But, if there is a greater effort to bring more women into the workforce, the shortfall could be only 3 million.
While there is much talk about promoting innovation and supporting innovators and entrepreneurs; there is an undercurrent of debate ranging from scrapping the current system for protecting creations of the mind; i.e., the intellectual property rights system, to keeping the status quo, warts and all. How can influential networks such as the Paris-based “Women’s Forum for the Economy and Society” or the London-based “Global Women Inventor and Innovators Network” promote entrepreneurs, innovators and knowledge workers while at the same time respond to growing societal demands?
Not only do we need policies which support economic growth but policies that support the growth of ideas and creativity, areas where many women excel. The Women’s Forum for the Economy and Society, which brings together leading women (and men) in business, government and academia, could be an ideal stage for an honest exchange of ideas, testing some new ones, and where solutions to promoting and protecting innovation and creations of the mind are genuinely valued. Too often these questions are discussed in limited forums where honest debate is not encouraged and positions are reflected in a pre-scripted set of talking points. Perhaps French Finance minister Christine Lagarde and the other EU finance ministers will discuss not only structural reforms at their next meeting on September 12-13 in Nice, but meaningful ways to ensure Europe’s competitiveness well into the 21st century……