Recently I was asked by Mary Kathleen Flynn of The Deal why I thought there were so few women VCs. While I struggle to answer that question (and I welcome your thoughts if you have them). I have been spending a great deal of time thinking about what it means for innovation if women are not appropriately represented – as innovators, funders and consumers of innovation. My cause for concern was validated this week by John Doerr’s comments as he accepted the Bay Area Business Council Hall of Fame Award with fellow VC Brook Byers. John presented a compelling case for why he believes we are heading for a significant innovation crisis here in the Bay Area – and why this is the challenge of our time. What I heard in his comments was that innovation matters. And if an economic powerhouse like Doerr says it matters – I believe.
Accepting that innovation matters, I return to my original quandary about the role of women in innovation. So I read and I observe and I think. These are the tools I have used to develop the following conclusions about innovation and why you should care if you look around and everyone looks, thinks, sounds, acts and is – JUST LIKE YOU.
Number 1) Smart people have told us that diversity results in better innovation: “The diverse group almost always outperforms the group of the best by a substantial margin,” The Difference, Scott E. Page, University of Michigan. “The key to innovation, in economic terms, resides inside the heads of people, the more diverse the better. That link may not be immediately apparent, yet any understanding of innovation's role in economic growth must focus on diversity as well as ability.”
Number 2) There is a significant body of research that demonstrates the correlation between women in executive positions and higher profits and better overall performance. Agreed, correlation is not cause, but the correlation is significant. (Women Matter, McKinsey & Co.; The Bottom Line, Catalyst)
Number 3) The smartest people I know surround themselves with people who challenge their opinions, their premises, their conclusions – they invest in the intellectual journey and the debate. To get to this environment they tend to surround themselves with folks who bring a unique perspective, a unique experience, or a unique way of thinking about the problem –and they welcome these. OK, this one is not research, but I told you I used observation, too.
These are not my final thoughts on the topic by any measure. They are where I am today and what I am thinking about. I welcome your thoughts and observations on the matter and even invite you to guest blog about them on the Astia Notes Blog.