Workshop Re-thinking Research and Innovation: How Does Gender Matter?

February 25-27, the workshop Re-thinking Research and Innovation: How Does Gender Matter? was held at the Centre for Gender Research at Uppsala University. Oganized by our Nordwit coordinator Gabriele Griffin and funded by the Swedish Riksbankens Jubileumsfond, it gathered together researchers from the Nordwit centre, the Innovation network in South of Sweden and also researchers outside Scandinavia. The 11 presentations and lively discussions mapped out the breath of the scattered field of gender in research and innovation and elaborated the concepts and some of the key themes both at the academic and the entrepreneurial end of the field.

Gabriele Griffin, Felizitas Sagebiel, and Marja Vehviläinen examined the gendered practices at the academic end of research and innovation. Griffin and Vehviläinen discussed the relatively new, multidisciplinary research fields digital humanities and health technologies which often exist in atypical formations such as centres rather than disciplines in academia. Sagebiel analysed the gendering effects of current peer reviewing practices. Clem Herman’s talk took us to the gendered practices of UK academe as exemplified by the Open University, and in particular to the educational innovations that they have developed to educate the next generation of innovators with competences in diversity and gendered innovations as part of the curriculum. Liisa Husu’s talk on the practices of Funding Agencies, and specifically the study of the Riksbankens Jubileumsfond, illuminated how gender equality is understood in funding institutions and how those aim to pursue gender equality in Sweden and more broadly in Europe.

Then, Susanne Andersson and Karin Berglund, in collaboration with Katarina Petterson, took us to the entrepreneur and private enterprise end of innovations and both gave brilliant case studies of embodied and located innovations. Susanne Anderson introduced the notion of ‘alternative/unexpected users’ that she has used in her norm-critical user analysis with private company innovations. Zehra Sayed further opened up innovation work within the complexity of the intersecting relations of gender, class and caste. These revealed in particular the separation of bodily and cognitive aspects of innovation work in India.

Hilde Corneliussen and Magdalena Petersson McIntyre focused on gender and feminist understandings in innovation, Corneliussen by opening the notion of the gender paradox through a study on women who work in ICT in Norway, and Petersson McIntyre by analysing gender consultants. Minna Leinonen presented action research on gender equality with regional stakeholders in research and innovation. Both gender consultants and regional stakeholders aim for a change in gender relations. The ‘business case’ of gender equality, discussed in these two papers, was discussed vividly: it is integrated with gender consultants’ work in the form of market feminisms, and both gender consultants and regional stakeholders aim to have gains (what’s in it for me?) through gender and gender equality. Our workshop challenged the notion of profit-only gains and argued for different ways of thinking about ‘profit’ such as social justice and sustainability – both of which ultimately also impact on profit.

Gendered and gendering innovation was discussed in many presentations. Griffin concluded that the properties ascribed to innovation are the same as the properties ascribed to women/the feminine. They both are about difference, about change and disruption. This provides opportunities for feminist work on innovation. Berglund and Petterson continued the conceptual analysis by linking innovation with the dangerous. They discussed doing and thinking about innovation differently at micro and individual levels, as evolving practices, embodied, located to place, experimental, playing with the rules of the game, contemplative, caring, ethical, and following Levinas, embracing passivity as a way of providing space for the other.

Marja Vehviläinen

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