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Towards a gender-aware understanding of innovation: a three-dimensional route

Johanna Nählinder (Linköpings Universitet, Linköping, Sweden)
Malin Tillmar (Linköpings Universitet, Linköping, Sweden)
Caroline Wigren (Lunds Universitet, Lund, Sweden)

International Journal of Gender and Entrepreneurship

ISSN: 1756-6266

Article publication date: 9 March 2015




The purpose of this study is to discuss the theory of gender bias in innovation studies, to illustrate the gender bias of innovation studies by using empirical means and to suggest what is needed to reduce such bias. Previous studies on innovation have primarily focussed on male-dominated industries. These studies have been biased and hence unable to capture the range of innovations covered by theoretical definitions.


An innovation survey was conducted among entrepreneurs in the traditionally “female-labelled” health-care industry, avoiding the “male-labelled” concept of innovation itself in the questionnaire. The authors endeavoured to ascertain whether there is a significant difference between males and females in terms of innovativeness. Quantitative analyses were used to analyse the results and draw comparisons with an ordinary innovation survey.


Using a gender-aware operationalisation of innovation, no significant difference in innovativeness was found between men and women. This suggests that more attention is needed to correct the prevailing gender bias in innovation studies. A research model is presented to further understand the gender-biased operationalisations of innovation. Each of its three dimensions has a clear impact upon perceived innovativeness: the gender-label of the sector studied, the gender-neutrality of the operationalisation used in the study and the gender of the actors involved. All dimensions should be taken into account in future innovation studies that aim for gender neutrality.

Practical implications

Operationalisations for measuring innovations are usually biased. Therefore, women appear less innovative, which, in turn, leads to less visibility.


Gender perspectives are very seldom employed in innovation studies. In quantitative studies of this sort, it is even rarer. Our empirical evidence from the quantitative study shows the urgency of the need to broaden the concept both in academic, political and public debates. This is not the least for efficiency reasons in resource allocation and public policy.



Nählinder, J., Tillmar, M. and Wigren, C. (2015), "Towards a gender-aware understanding of innovation: a three-dimensional route", International Journal of Gender and Entrepreneurship, Vol. 7 No. 1, pp. 66-86.



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Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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