12. marts 2024

Breaking Barriers: Feminist Innovation at University of Copenhagen

kvindernes internationale kampdag

March 8, 2023
University of Copenhagen, Coordination for Gender studies and KU Lighthouse

On the occasion of International Women's Day, the University of Copenhagen hosted a groundbreaking seminar on Feminist Innovation – Masculinities, Culture and Diversities, shedding light on the challenges faced by women and other minorities in entrepreneurship and innovation. The seminar, organized by the Coordination for Gender Studies and Lighthouse KU proved to be a resounding success, attracting a diverse audience of researchers, experts, and practitioners.

The seminar commenced with an introductory note from Hilda Rømer Christensen, setting the stage for discussions led by distinguished speakers. Marie Louise Bech Nosch, President of the Danish Royal Academy of Sciences, emphasized the need for European countries, especially in the north, to catch up in entrepreneurship and innovation. She underscored the importance of celebrating March 8th, recalling collaborations with Ukrainian scholars amid the ongoing conflict. Andreas Blohm Graversen, Vice director of Innovation at the University of Copenhagen, highlighted their commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI), launching a pre-accelerator program to support diversity in entrepreneurship.

Masculine norms and a need for more a more inclusive approach in innovation

Angela Martinez Dy from Loughborough University, London, delivered a thought-provoking presentation titled 'Intersectional Positionality and Entrepreneurial Problem-Solving in the Digital Era.' She explored the challenges faced by marginalized groups in digital entrepreneurship, emphasizing the need for a more inclusive approach to innovation.

Dag Balkmar from Örebro University delved into the persistent gender divide in tech entrepreneurship. He examined the deep-rooted masculine norms, particularly the tech geek, that continue to shape the industry, posing challenges for women entrepreneurs even in supposedly gender-equal Nordic countries.

Sebrina Steensgaard, connected to the GILL project and the Coordination for Gender Research at University of Copenhagen, presented a case study on 'The Lion's Den,' exploring how popular culture perpetuates gender stereotypes in entrepreneurship. The analysis revealed the dominance of male entrepreneurs and highlighted the need for a shift in cultural narratives.

Are quotas a way to challenge the barriers

A roundtable discussion featured Nanna Schultz, Founder and CEO of Momkind, Stine Mølgaard Sørensen, Partner Alliance VC, Co-founder Radiobotics, Sine Linderstrøm, Director of SME and Entreprenurship at Danish Industry and Maria Shubhra Ovesen, Lighthouse University of Copenhagen provided insights from their experiences in entrepreneurship. Moderated by Marie Valentin Bech the panel discussed challenges such as overcoming gender norms, balancing family life, and changing the narrative around female founders. The topic of quotas in management and funding agencies also ignited lively discussions. The speakers emphasized the importance of breaking down gendered norms in entrepreneurship, calling for concrete measures fx quotas to promote structural change. Both the panel and attendees grappled with the question of whether quotas are the right approach to foster diversity and inclusion, and gave various perspectives on their effectiveness.

Critical questions and paradoxes surfaced during the discussions. One prominent debate revolved around whether individuals should position themselves explicitly as a woman entrepreneur or use more neutral terms. Pros and cons were weighed, sparking a reflection on the impact of language in shaping perceptions.

Collaborative efforts are needed

Key takeaways from the presentations and expert panel highlighted a glaring lack of diversity at all levels within the realms of innovation and entrepreneurship. Despite numerous discussions and strategies circulating over the past 2 to 5 years, tangible progress remains elusive. While stakeholders and decision-makers now use the right terminology around gender, equality, and inclusion, there seems to be a knowledge gap in implementing these principles effectively. This raises a critical question: What is the right way forward? Researchers can provide the foundational knowledge, but the consensus is that collaborative efforts are needed to co-produce viable solutions.