More excerpts from my upcoming book, The New Polymath due in June. The book celebrates innovators from around the world including sections focused on innovative technology women and I thought it would be good to showcase it today "the international day of blogging (videologging, podcasting, comic drawing etc.!) to draw attention to the achievements of women in technology and science." Here are 3 out of many sections of women innovators in the book - all inspiring in their own ways
1. “Your question has me stumped,” responds Gerlinde Gniewosz to a question the author posed to several women in technology fields: “Which women in tech do you consider innovative? Not powerful or successful, but innovative?” Gniewosz has experience at Yahoo! (the web company), Orange (the telecommunications company), and McKinsey & Co. (the strategy firm). She has an MBA from Harvard Business School and is now an entrepreneur developing learning products on mobile devices. She was born and educated in Australia; went to business school in the United States, has worked in Germany and the United Kingdom and has traveled the world. It is a telling comment if someone that global and aware of technology trends is stumped by the question. Depressingly, a couple more women, also long in the technology industry, responded the same way. They point to the fact that science and technology are not attracting enough women.
Mary Hayes Weier provides the breakthrough. She used to be editor-at-large at InformationWeek and points to WITI—Women in Technology International, a trade association for tech-savvy women.It honors innovative women each year, and Weier was one of the judges for the 2008 awards. She has several candidates for innovative women in tech, including Mary Lou Jepsen, the cofounder and CTO of One Laptop per Child. Julia King, executive editor for events at Computerworld, mentions Cora Carmody, former CIO at SAIC and now at Jacobs Engineering, for founding Technology Goddesses, an organization to attract girls into science and math at a very early age.
Marilyn Pratt, who works at SAP, points to inventive women from history including Marie Curie, the first female recipient of a Nobel Prize for the discovery of radioactive elements, and Stephanie Kwolek, the inventor of Kevlar. Karen Beaman, who runs a consulting firm appropriately named Jeitosa (Portuguese for “innovation”), names Linda Avey, who brought genetic testing to the masses with 23andme. Avey has since left to start a foundation related to Alzheimer’s disease.
Other recommendations start flowing in. They include Lily Allen, who pioneered music distribution via social networks like MySpace, and the astronaut Sally Ride, for her work encouraging young girls to take a bigger interest in science and engineering. Esther Dyson is mentioned - she has been a investor and industry influencer in infotech and healthtech and is preparing to be a space tourist. Others point to Ada Lovelace Day in March, when bloggers post about women they admire in technology.
Gniewosz thinks some more and comes back with a similar, wider-reaching body: GWIIN—Global Women Inventors & Innovators Network.
But even if these role models and recognitions do not drive women to science and technology in droves, there is a significant opportunity to leverage women in product design as technology enters so many consumer products.Take the New York Times story about Alison Lewis, who is part of a wave of young product designers embedding electronics into “soft” areas, such as fashion or home furnishings “In Alison Lewis’s girlish, pale-blue living room here, pillows light up when you sit on them and the sofa fabric has a dimmer switch.” Lewis may seem out of left field—but not for too long. Women like her will influence our design and deployment of technology-led-innovation much more going forward.
2. Elizabeth Horn, mother of Sophia, a child with autism, says: “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC] calls autism an epidemic. The newest statistics are shocking: 1 out of every 100 children in the United States has an autism spectrum disorder. Even with that remarkable prevalence, there is little cause/effect data compared to other diseases.”
Horn has teamed up with Pramila Srinivasan, also mother of a child with autism, Siddharth. Srinivasan founded MedicalMine, which developed ChARM (Children’s Autism Recovery Map).
ChARMtracker is treatment management software created for the 1,400-plus parents who have signed up since it was launched in May 2009.
Says Elisabeth Einaudi, one of these parents: “With a few easy keystrokes, I enter basic treatment info once and daily observations, and then ChARM converts it into information that I can use.”
Although today parents need web access to enter the data, there is no reason why they could not use text or Twitter messages with short hash tags to make such notations directly from their mobile phones.
The ability to post observations about their children is a very promising feature of the tracker. Parents can document an unusual word or gesture and their thoughts on what may have caused it. The hope is that this growing database will help to identify biomarkers that which may help guide treatments in the future.
ChARM Physician, the physician portal, allows the same data to be viewed by medical practitioners. Physicians can communicate, visualize, and analyze patient data from any web browser. Researchers might one day be able to use sophisticated tools to analyze the data in this longitudinal tracking system. So in many ways it is an EMR for the physician as well as a treatment management and a social networking site.
Granted Horn and Srinivasan are no ordinary mothers. They are tech savvy and live in Silicon Valley. Their husbands are chief executives of software companies. (Zach Nelson is profiled in Chapter 18, Sridhar Vembu in Chapter 9.) Horn spent the early part of her career making movies for technology companies. In her doctoral research at Purdue, Srinivasan focused on problems in data processing algorithms for analysis and classification. She has helped with algorithms in several engineering start-ups in the valley.
Beyond ChARM, Horn and Srinivasan are exploiting other technologies to bring more attention to autism. For the last decade, Horn has worked on the production and marketing of a film about children recovering from autism entitled Finding the Words. The documentary has been seen by over a million people around the world. Its YouTube preview has also been seen by thousands. Horn is currently editing a new version for American television entitled The Fight for Children with Autism. Horn says:
Traditional views of autism are being challenged now by new research and new ways of thinking about this disease. It’s no longer “incurable” or “untreatable,” and the children in this film prove that. If just one child who was given no hope of ever having a normal life can get dramatically better, that child changes the paradigm for all of us. And once you have hope, you can change things for your child. And ChARM will help you do that.
ChARM is a harbinger of similar social networks of patients with other afflictions. While governments around the world try multiyear, multibillion-dollar healthcare initiatives, affordable web services, video, and other technology can provide hope and help in the interim. It just needs passionate, driven sponsors like Horn and Srinivasan.
3. Rural Sourcing was the brain child of Kathy Brittan-White, former CIO of Cardinal Health and now on the board of Mattel and Novell. Brittan-White was driven to start Rural Sourcing partly by Hamilton’s “Misery Meter” in her role as CIO and partly by altruism to give back to the region where she was born—the town of nearby Oxford, Arkansas with a population of just 650. More recently Brittan-White has moved her rural sourcing focus to one of the most depressed areas in the US - Pocahontas County, W. Virginia. And, she has become involved with the nearby High Rocks Academy which focuses on creating positive role models for young women in that state.
Oxford, Arkansas, not Oxford, England? That’s more innovation from left field.
Picture credit - Wikipedia