The gender factor of innovation

Innovation is relevant to the field of technology and humanity.  There can different aspects of innovation carried forward by the same person.

  • The technology aspect: being the first to achieve a level of achievement in a certain technological domain.
  • The humanity aspect: being the first woman to reach a certain level of achievement in society.

Let’s take the rather unkown Belgian scientist Ingrid Daubechies, as a point in case. She was the first female professor of maths at Princeton University. She also was the first to crack and make publicly available crucial algorithms that have formed the basis of some of the most widespread image compression techniques. So she contributed to an innovation that we enjoy today on our computers, devices, screens and cameras.  She is now also the first female president of the International Mathematical Union. What is the most striking part of this story?

  • should women thank her for becoming a leading lady in maths as an innovation to society, as an example.
  • or should we focus on her masterful technological work for image compression, something we take pleasure in daily when we use our phones and apps.

NOTE: In the mean time I am still waiting for the first female president of the US of A, Europe or China. Curious how long it will take each of these three nations?